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Thread: Skookum Maru

  1. #526
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    Hey Chris, you are a two-hour sail from us in Lyall Hbr; too bad about that pesky border crossing or you could drop over for a visit. Have a safe trip! / Jim

  2. #527
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    Thanks Chris, enjoy!! it it looks like you are having a wonderful time I remember the few times I actually got the cruise Chesapeake Bay and loved it!

    Anyhow my new set of problems is my new to me new old car 2003 Honda Civic blew a head gasket on the first real trip over a hundred miles.. needless to say my Honda heart is broken

    Good news is a company called JDM brings all their engines that are super low mileage tested and certified low mileage from Japan, have a good reputation. I'll have one here next week probably.


    Oil in the water, no oil in the crankcase not taking a chance the labor costs are almost the same. Silly mehaving the car serviced shocks alignment brakes I should have known I was in for a surprise!
    Denise, Bristol PA, retired from HVAC business, & boat restoration and building

  3. #528
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    Everywhere is crowded. Over 60 boats here in Reid and even more in Prevost. But it’s still way better than South Sound, which was a parking lot. We got our preferred spot on the north side of Reid right up against the shore though. The night run was a lot of fun but definitely an adventure. Full trip report in a few days.

    Sorry to hear about your Honda, Denise - that’s a pain. But with a replacement motor it should be good for another hundred thousand miles easy
    - Chris

    Any single boat project will always expand to encompass the set of all possible boat projects.

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  4. #529
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    I’m surprised at your comment that South Sound was a parking lot. We were there a couple of weeks ago and our friends were there just last week, both of us found it surprisingly empty with park buoys and room available everywhere. I guess it changes fast this time of year.

  5. #530
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    I guess I should have said that Jarrell Cove was a parking lot. Filucy Bay was pretty empty and a nice place to sit but with nowhere to go on shore it’s not ideal for recreation with an active boy. There were buoys available in Jarrell Cove but we found it much too crowded even so. After moving once to avoid a sailboat that took the buoy closest to us, leaving her swinging only a few feet from our bow, we had enough. We could have tried another location but by then the urge to head north had set in so we just left.
    - Chris

    Any single boat project will always expand to encompass the set of all possible boat projects.

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  6. #531
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    On Saturday, August 8th, a couple of weeks after we returned from South Sound, we headed out for the second installment of 2020 cruising, this time with the intent of exploring more of the area below the Tacoma Narrows. Our tentative itinerary was to stay the first night in Gig Harbor, then a night in Filucy Bay and then continue on to the area around Harstine Island - Jarrell Cove, Hope Island and any other locations that struck our interest.

    We headed out through the locks on a grey morning with the promise of clearing skies toward the south.



    Linda Evans, a local maritime photographer, captured Skookum Maru on the way out, and gave me permission to use the photo here:


    Photo by Linda Evans

    Dash and Addie discovered one of the joys of cruising - napping and reading while underway...



    ...as we traveled back down Colvos Passage in a reverse of our return trip in July.

    We arrived in Gig Harbor around 1600 hours, just as the clouds lifted, to find the anchorage entirely filled with boats.



    We toured the harbor for a while looking for an open spot and finally settled into a space between several large trawler-yachts of the Nordhavn variety on the one side, and a trio of small boats rafted together on the other. But even at 2:1 scope it was an uneasy place, with little room to swing. I sat at the helm chewing my lip for a while as Skookum Maru danced ever closer to the rafted boats.

    We had hoped to start out with a short cruise on the first day but it was not to be. As our intersecting circles brought us within social-distancing range of our neighbors, we admitted defeat, raised anchor and headed out to continue on to Filucy Bay, our next planned destination. Fortunately we had anticipated this possibility and had timed our arrival in Gig Harbor for a favorable current in the Tacoma Narrows if we needed to keep going.

    And a favorable current we had, as Skookum Maru hit the breathtaking velocity of eleven knots over the ground in the Narrows - a good four knots faster than our regular cruising speed!



    (This photo also reveals a problem that I have wanted to solve for some time. The course-up view on the radar display was several degrees off, rendering it largely useless. We were not, as the display indicates, heading kitty-corner across the channel after passing underneath the bridge, but directly down it.)

    The flood swept us down through the Narrows, past Fox and McNeil islands, and by 1840 we were anchored in Filucy Bay, in the same spot that we had vacated only a few days before. And also as before we found Filucy Bay to be quiet, with only a few boats in the harbor, anchored well away from each other.



    Peace and quiet and room to swing at last. We took Addie ashore for her evening walk, ate a light dinner and then turned in early.

    To be continued...
    - Chris

    Any single boat project will always expand to encompass the set of all possible boat projects.

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  7. #532
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    The last of the clouds vanished overnight and we awoke on Sunday to clear sky and a light breeze...



    ...which was just enough to send this pretty little 110 ghosting across the bay.



    I spent the morning on various minor boat maintenance chores - attempting to fix the still-inoperable solar panels (unsuccessfully, as they continued to work for a few minutes then stop), and correcting the radar display bearing line. Having an accurate radar would be important later in our trip, although I did not know it at the time. But I was happy to have accomplished one task after failing, again, to restore solar charging. That battle would be continued another day.

    We spent the rest of the day engaged in traditional cruising activities. Reading, swimming, puttering about the boat, rowing the dog ashore, fishing for small marine animals from the cockpit with a net.



    Then later Dash had his first real rowing lesson, starting out tethered to the towing line…



    ...and ending up by rowing his Dad around the inlet.



    A good day.

    (contd.)
    - Chris

    Any single boat project will always expand to encompass the set of all possible boat projects.

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  8. #533
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    Monday brought another clear and calm morning.



    It was too warm for the diesel stove so we used the butane burners to make blueberry pancakes and skillet fries for breakfast.



    The butane burners work great set up on the stove top like this but they have two drawbacks: The cartridges are not refillable, which I do not love, although they can be recycled. And, as discussed earlier, there is no provision for pot holders or a sea rail. So fabricating some sort of holder to keep pots in place in anything other than a flat calm is high on the list of projects.

    We could happily have repeated our idleness of the previous day but we had other plans, other destinations to visit, and more exploring to do. So after breakfast we raised anchor and headed out of Filucy Bay, around Devils Head at the southern tip of the Key Peninsula, and up Case Inlet toward Jarrell Cove.



    Jarrell Cove is listed in the cruising guides as the “most popular” destination in South Sound. A description which promises both that it is a destination worth visiting and that you will be sharing it with plenty of other boaters when you get there. And so it was. The cove itself is lovely, with a large marine park, sand beaches, a handy dock and plenty of mooring buoys.



    But perhaps a few too many of the latter, as we found the anchorage packed with boats, although there were still several buoys available. And it became even more so when a sailboat arrived and took the buoy closest to us, mooring with a very long pennant and towing a large inflatable dinghy. All of which together made them a sixty foot long assemblage in a space apparently designed for boats half that length, and put them uncomfortably close. We moved to another buoy a bit farther away but it was obvious that we would have to accept amusement park levels of crowding to enjoy the pleasures of Jarrell Cove.

    However we were determined to enjoy the experience as it came. Or so we told ourselves, as we waved to our neighbors in much the same way as I imagine we would to the inhabitants of the next site over in an RV park, if we were inclined toward that mode of travel. We settled in as best we could and then Dash used his new rowing skills to row ashore with Mom so he could swim off the beach...



    ...while Dad took advantage of the quiet boat to read (ahem) er, I mean nap.

    But as the afternoon shaded into evening we found the joys of the shore less compensation for the standing-room-only quarters in the harbor, and the conversation turned to other destinations which we might find more to our liking. We considered Hope Island, Oro Bay, McMicken Island and other places that we could reach within an hour or two. But all of our options came with some downside in the pithy descriptions from the cruising guides. Mosquitos, or unsheltered anchorages, or limited room, or no shore access (a critical requirement with a dog aboard). We thought of heading back to Filucy Bay but we had been there already and, lovely as it was, there was very little to do there for a seven year old boy. So at some point the idea was floated - why not head north?

    The San Juan Islands were familiar territory with any number of anchorages and far more room than we were finding in South Sound. It might be crowded up there but it couldn’t be worse than where we were, right? And we had talked about wanting to do some night cruising... How crazy would it be? Pretty crazy, as it turned out, but we were determined to be adventurous on this cruise. A quick check of the tides for the Tacoma Narrows told us that we would have time to get there by the end of the flood and have the ebb with us all the way up Puget Sound. The weather would be calm and clear. And we would have several options for places to stop on the way if at any point we wanted to pause our night run and wait for morning.

    It was decided. Instead of a quiet evening in Jarrell Cove we would spend the night cruising up Puget Sound and on to the San Juan Islands. Over a hundred nautical miles, from very nearly the southern-most inland waters of Washington State right to the Canadian border. So we weighed anchor again and, as the sun sank toward the horizon, we reversed our earlier course down Case Inlet and headed out into a long night.




    (contd.)
    Last edited by cstevens; 08-23-2020 at 08:47 AM.
    - Chris

    Any single boat project will always expand to encompass the set of all possible boat projects.

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  9. #534
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    Thank you so much for posting these Chris! 'm always looking forward to your next installment!

  10. #535
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    Thanks Hugh! Much, much more to come as I have time to write it up.

    Cruising at night is not something to be done carelessly, especially not in the constricted waters of Puget Sound. All of the daytime hazards of the water are amplified. Navigation becomes more difficult, as familiar landmarks and buoys are harder to make out. Any danger that arises, from mechanical failure to grounding, water ingress or crew overboard, becomes vastly more challenging and perilous. And we frequently encounter logs in the water out here - some of which are large enough to sink a boat.

    Commercial vessels do it all the time of course, but their crews are trained in nighttime navigation, their ships are generally safe from logs and debris that would be hazardous to a small wooden boat, and they have the ability to stand a lookout in addition to the helmsperson. And they do not stand night-long watches. When I told my brother, who is a mate aboard a tug operating on the Gulf Coast, about our trip he said that their watches were no more than six hours long. Which seems like an excellent safety precaution.

    We, on the other hand, are mere amateurs, although I have cruised at night before. We thought that we knew and understood the risks, and that we had prepared for them as well as possible. Skookum Maru is well-equipped with navigational devices - radar, chart plotter, AIS. I am comfortable navigating with paper charts in the event of a failure in any of the technology. We noted harbors where we could stop at various points in the trip if fatigue or conditions made it too dangerous to continue. And yet it is impossible to eliminate all risk.

    Others may well look at our choice to abandon a sheltered and comfortable anchorage for a long night voyage as foolhardy, and I would not argue with them. But the joys of night cruising are magical, and worth experiencing even at the cost of some peril. Bioluminescent plankton flash in the bow wave. Moonlight paints a shimmering path on the water, leading the way to our celestial neighbour. Stars traverse the sky, interspersed with the rapid, busy, points of satellites moving swiftly in their orbits. And the enclosure of darkness emphasizes the solitary circle - “maru” in Japanese - of the boat, a small space of safety, warmth, and companionship in the night.

    So it was, as we passed Devils Head again and headed north for Balch Passage, with dusk turning the sky gold and purple.



    It was fully night by the time we passed the entrance to Filucy Bay again, our first alternate stopping point. But we were committed to continuing our trip so we watched that safe harbor vanish behind us. Likewise, the empty mooring buoys of Eagle Island bobbed in our wake as we went by. We were adventurers that night, and adventurers do not seek out refuge when the horizon beckons, however darkly!

    By 2230 we were passing under the Tacoma Narrows bridge and approaching Gig Harbor again.



    On this Monday night we thought it likely that we could find a spot to anchor in Gig Harbor if necessary, but we were feeling confident, the conditions were perfect, and stopping did not appeal. So on we went, up Colvos Passage, past the Southworth ferry, and on into the night.



    Eventually Dash fell asleep on the pilothouse settee and we tucked him into his cabin. Addie retired to her place in the other forward berth. Tory napped on the dinette cushion. And Skookum Maru rumbled contentedly along. Over the past couple of years we have come to trust the strength of her stoutly-built hull, her unsophisticated but reliable engine, and her well-kept systems. She is a boat to love at night, when the dangers of the water loom larger and the safety of one's family depends entirely on an aggregation of planks, frames, fasteners, wires, hoses and machinery. Then, in the darkness, it is comforting to think of the boat not as that collection of parts, but as a being whose mission is to safeguard her crew.

    As the rest of the family slept, Skookum Maru and I kept watch together.

    (contd.)
    - Chris

    Any single boat project will always expand to encompass the set of all possible boat projects.

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  11. #536
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    Cruising at night is truly magical. Looking forward to "the rest of the story" - to steal a phrase.
    "If it ain't broke, you're not trying." - Red Green

  12. #537
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    Quote Originally Posted by cstevens View Post
    I spent the morning on various minor boat maintenance chores - attempting to fix the still-inoperable solar panels (unsuccessfully, as they continued to work for a few minutes then stop), and correcting the radar display bearing line. Having an accurate radar would be important later in our trip, although I did not know it at the time. But I was happy to have accomplished one task after failing, again, to restore solar charging. That battle would be continued another day.
    For the radar, was the fix to adjust the radome mount? I never noticed the heading problem (tho I did not use the radar in anger very often); maybe the mount twisted on that old wood mast?

    For the solar panels... If you reset the solar controller, does it all start working again for a while? If so, probably the controller. In any case make sure all the connections under the helm settee are tight. Then I would suspect one or more of the panels themselves; those flexible panels are somewhat fragile and they are getting on in years now. Go on top and disconnect all but one (they are just wired in parallel) and see how that works. Then add one panel at a time until you see the problem.

    (Did those big 8D Rolls recover alright from that discharge event in Blaine?)

    In any case I hope you get it sorted. Not having to worry about power on the hook is a great thing.

    --Paul

  13. #538
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    Quote Originally Posted by _QB_ View Post
    For the radar, was the fix to adjust the radome mount? I never noticed the heading problem (tho I did not use the radar in anger very often); maybe the mount twisted on that old wood mast?

    For the solar panels... If you reset the solar controller, does it all start working again for a while? If so, probably the controller. In any case make sure all the connections under the helm settee are tight. Then I would suspect one or more of the panels themselves; those flexible panels are somewhat fragile and they are getting on in years now. Go on top and disconnect all but one (they are just wired in parallel) and see how that works. Then add one panel at a time until you see the problem.

    (Did those big 8D Rolls recover alright from that discharge event in Blaine?)

    In any case I hope you get it sorted. Not having to worry about power on the hook is a great thing.

    --Paul
    I'm not sure what caused the radar alignment issues Paul. It didn't seem to be a radome mounting problem at all. I had searched for configuration setting that would allow for an adjustment in the display on a couple of other occasions but did not find anything. However this time a detailed review of the installation guide revealed a hidden combination of keys that would put the unit into an installation setup mode and allow the heading to be adjusted. Which I did, and which solved the problem entirely.

    As for the solar panels... Yes, I did eventually get them working again. Details to come when I get to that part of the story

    So far the house battery bank seems to have suffered no long term damage from the discharge event. Even without the solar panels they are good for several days on the hook with no problems. I was worried about it at one point last year when they discharged more than I had expected while we were at anchor for a couple of days. But now I think that was the point when the solar panels stopped working. On this trip they never dropped below 80% before I fixed the panels, and after I got the panels fixed the charge level never dropped below 90%, even though we had to turn up the refrigerator to maintain a safe food storage temperature. But more on that issue later as well.
    - Chris

    Any single boat project will always expand to encompass the set of all possible boat projects.

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  14. #539
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    Again, Thank You, Chris. I love nighttime passages, but mine have mostly been offshore or in through the Straits...Oregon Offshore and Swiftsure with various deliveries. Nighttime sailing has its own delights some of which are somewhat unique to sailing in the Straits. Something special about ghosting along the Washington shore on an incoming tide and hearing a wind channel pouring down a canyon off the Olympics a hundred yards before you get there, trimming accordingly and then gybing back when you're through the williwaw. Or being offshore watching the phosphorus spraying out like welding sparks and having a crewmate call, "LOOK AT THAT!" and turning around to see a 2 acre area of sea behind you light up as a shoal of baitfish gets chased to the surface. I hope Dash doesn't sleep through all of the mysteries and beauties of the night passages, but there's something marvellous about being snuggled into a bunk and allowing yourself to be mesmerized by the drone of the engine and the roll of the boat, too

  15. #540
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    Quote Originally Posted by Hugh MacD View Post
    Again, Thank You, Chris. I love nighttime passages, but mine have mostly been offshore or in through the Straits...Oregon Offshore and Swiftsure with various deliveries. Nighttime sailing has its own delights some of which are somewhat unique to sailing in the Straits. Something special about ghosting along the Washington shore on an incoming tide and hearing a wind channel pouring down a canyon off the Olympics a hundred yards before you get there, trimming accordingly and then gybing back when you're through the williwaw. Or being offshore watching the phosphorus spraying out like welding sparks and having a crewmate call, "LOOK AT THAT!" and turning around to see a 2 acre area of sea behind you light up as a shoal of baitfish gets chased to the surface. I hope Dash doesn't sleep through all of the mysteries and beauties of the night passages, but there's something marvellous about being snuggled into a bunk and allowing yourself to be mesmerized by the drone of the engine and the roll of the boat, too
    Those experiences do sound wonderful Hugh. I've never done any offshore cruising and I imagine that it is very different from nighttime inshore navigation. Something I'd like to do sometime.

    Dash stayed up quite late on this trip and got to enjoy much of the night. Some of my favorite memories as a boy are of falling asleep in my bunk while my parents took us to some new place and I hope he will have that experience many times in the future as well.
    - Chris

    Any single boat project will always expand to encompass the set of all possible boat projects.

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  16. #541
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    By 0130 we were crossing the Puget Sound Vessel Traffic Service lanes just south of Elliott Bay. A note here about the VTS. Commercial traffic uses the lanes for north-south travel within Puget Sound and they take up most of the width of the Sound, leaving an area on each side between the shore and the VTS zone which varies from less than a third of a nautical mile in width up to a mile and a half in spots.

    Commercial vessels using the VTS have right of way over pretty much everything else on the water. They are also big, fast and don’t stop or turn very well. So the rule for recreational traffic is that you stay out of the lanes at all times. If you need to cross the lanes, you do it at right angles so as to spend as little time in them as possible. And, above all, look both ways before crossing the street! Doubly true at night with the city as a backdrop, where the lights of a freighter coming up from Tacoma or a tow coming out of Elliott Bay can be very hard to pick out against the background of city lights. As I well knew, but was about to learn again.

    As we made our way first across the south bound lane and then the separation zone, the radar screen showed nothing coming in either direction. A visual check likewise showed only the lights of downtown Seattle, with no movement to reveal any marine traffic. The AIS overlay on the chart plotter however showed something on a converging course to starboard.

    Peering into the darkness I could just make out a tug coming up from the south, outside of the VTS lanes, and likely about to make the turn into Elliott Bay. Keeping an eye on the other vessel I turned to starboard slightly to pass behind it. At which point a second tug and barge combination, which I had missed seeing against the lights of downtown, flashed their spotlight on Skookum Maru, in a clear signal to get the heck out of the way! They were not really all that close - maybe half a mile away - but they appeared more than close enough as I scuttled to avoid them and then watched the slab wall of the barge pass by and disappear behind me.

    Somewhat chastened, and reminded not to fixate on one danger to the exclusion of others, I pointed Skookum Maru’s bow north again and continued up past Elliott Bay toward the flashing red and white light from the West Point lighthouse, beyond which lay Shilshole Marina and another possible stopping point if we needed one. I briefly considered pausing there but decided to press on.

    0230. Two thirty in the morning. Shilshole receded into the distance behind us. High clouds hid the moon. Scatchet Head loomed ahead, a darker line against the inky expanse of water. The lights of a fish processor passed us heading southbound. The AIS showed other traffic traveling unseen. Another tug and barge combination passing well to the west, another fishing boat.

    Check the radar. Scan the water looking for lights. Look for AIS targets on the chart plotter - a difficult task given the low contrast of the blackout colors. Make a mental note to look into changing those at some point. Every few seconds peer at the water ahead with binoculars to look for debris in the water. Is that dark spot ahead a log or just a wave? A wave - definitely a wave. Repeat. The world is reduced to these things. The night, the dim glow of the electronics, the thoughts in my head. “What if...?”

    All the what-ifs crowded in during this passage between Point Wells and the entrance to Possession Sound, which runs up between Whidbey Island and the city of Everett. A stretch of water that I know well, have been up and down countless times since I was a boy not much older than Dash. But the night changes it, makes it unknown again.

    0400. Only a couple of hours until dawn. Passing to the east of Possession Point on the southern tip of Whidbey Island, and heading up behind Whidbey toward Saratoga Passage.



    The forecast for the Strait of Juan de Fuca was for gale winds overnight, with a small craft advisory in effect, so we were not going that way. Instead the plan was to head for Langley or Penn Cove on the east side of Whidbey and stop for a rest before continuing on.

    0430. AIS showed a vessel - the freighter Westward out of Victoria - heading around Scatchet Head and coming up Possession Sound behind us, moving fast. Will they see us? I edged toward the west side of the sound, hugging the shore of Whidbey Island, and watched the lights of the freighter turn up the channel and head toward us. They would turn and head east into the port of Everett I assumed. And yet the ship passed very close by - a huge black wall eclipsing the lights of the shore - before swinging around Elliott Point and away toward the port.

    We surfed the wake of the freighter as it passed us, turning to keep from rocking the glasses out of their slots and the crew out of their bunks. Ahead the lights of the Clinton ferry dock showed the first ferry run of the day getting ready to load. We passed behind the departing ferry as the sky in the east was beginning to lighten.



    Night receded, revealing the familiar sights of Hat Island and Camano Head peering out of the mist that blanketed the shore...



    ...and eventually the sun returned from whatever paths it wanders in the dark, rising over a world of slate gray.



    Pausing to drift a mile north of the ferry dock I lit the stove against the chill, made a pot of coffee, and considered our course.



    Langley lay just around the corner of Sandy Point. Penn Cove a bit further on. We could stop in either place, get some sleep, and resume our trip later. But the sun was coming up, the day promised to be beautiful, and if we continued now we would have a favorable current in the Swinomish channel. Why not keep going? I needed some sleep but the unthreatening leg up Saratoga Passage was a perfect place to do that. So rather than stopping I decided to rouse Tory and ask her to take the helm for an hour or so while I got some sleep, in preparation for the more difficult passage through Skagit Bay, the Swinomish Channel and Padilla Bay to the north.

    (contd.)
    Last edited by cstevens; 08-23-2020 at 12:14 AM.
    - Chris

    Any single boat project will always expand to encompass the set of all possible boat projects.

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  17. #542
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    After the long overnight run, the rest of the day passed uneventfully. I slept for a couple of hours while Tory piloted up Saratoga Passage, and then we navigated up Skagit Bay, through the Swinomish Channel and past La Conner.



    By the time we exited the north end of the Swinomish Channel the clouds were clearing...



    ...and under a blue sky we headed out Guemes Channel, past Anacortes, across Rosario Strait, through Thatcher Pass, and finally dropped anchor at Spencer Spit on Lopez Island at 1330, some nineteen hours after leaving Jarrell Cove the day before.



    We took advantage of the pause to take Addie ashore and to relax for a short while before considering our next step. We were in the San Juan Islands at last and happy to be there, but we were not done with our voyage for that day.

    Spencer Spit is another “popular destination”. And understandably so, as it features one of the few sizable public beaches in the San Juans - an archipelago noted more for its rocky shores than gentle sands. When we arrived, all of the mooring buoys were occupied but we found a spot somewhat farther away from the beach and resigned ourselves to a bit longer row to get ashore. Which was all well enough, however the spit provides no shelter whatsoever from the south, and the forecast was for rising southerly winds that evening. Not liking the thought of bouncing around all night on the hook if we didn’t have to, we cast about for alternatives.

    Fortunately one of our favorite anchorages, Deer Harbor on Orcas Island, lay only a little further along through Harney Channel, which lies between Orcas to the north, and Lopez and Shaw islands to the south. Deer Harbor is large and well-protected, with easy shore access. That seemed like a much nicer place to end up, so a couple of hours after we arrived at Spencer Spit we weighed anchor once again and continued west.

    Arriving at Deer Harbor a little over an hour later we found, as with nearly every other location either north or south, that the anchorage was crowded with boats - more so than I had ever seen before. But we were able to find a spot in the middle of a small flotilla of classics, directly behind Deer Leap, a lovely fantail yacht that is something of a local celebrity.



    The other members of our little group were Pelican, an ex fisheries patrol vessel...



    ..and Maureen, a classic yacht built in Seattle in 1928.



    Finally, after nearly twenty four hours and over a hundred and twenty nautical miles, we had arrived at a place to stop. We took Addie ashore again, fixed a simple dinner, and crawled into our bunks to sleep for as long as we liked.

    (contd.)
    Last edited by cstevens; 08-23-2020 at 08:46 AM.
    - Chris

    Any single boat project will always expand to encompass the set of all possible boat projects.

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  18. #543
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    There are few things that warm the heart as joyfully as a diesel stove on a chilly marine morning.

    That is exactly the kind of cruising Ed Monk designed his boats for. Bravo!
    1960 LeClerq 36' Commercial Salmon Troller F/V Alcor

  19. #544
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    Great read and some nice pictures of pretty wooden boats and cedar forests, what's not to like? Thanks for taking us along, Chris.

    I got my sea legs on the Alexander von Humboldt I, a 46m sailtraining barque which ran a standard three 4h watches and covered quite a lot of ground, so sailing at night is something I just did in due course right from the start. It is indeed magical, and as I found out later on smaller boats with more responsibility: can be quite nerve wracking at times. But I've never been afraid of it. In some ways I find it's actually easier. If the weather is clear navigation markers are visible over a much longer distance, and there is a lot less traffic typically. And once you have settled into night vision, a little moon light goes a long way on the water.

    I've spent many hours on that particular focsle, staring out ahead into the night, staysail sheets gently creaking in the blocks, first hints of sunrise coming on. Good times. Four to eight is a great watch, except maybe if you have a right slave driver of a bosun.

    (Thanks wiki for the photo. I was always to busy sailing to take pictures.)
    Last edited by MoritzSchwarzer; 08-23-2020 at 10:47 AM.

  20. #545
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris-on-the-Boat View Post
    There are few things that warm the heart as joyfully as a diesel stove on a chilly marine morning.

    That is exactly the kind of cruising Ed Monk designed his boats for. Bravo!
    Thanks Chris. And yes, even in August the diesel stove is a nice thing isn't it? It makes me look forward to cool mornings.

    Quote Originally Posted by MoritzSchwarzer View Post
    Great read and some nice pictures of pretty wooden boats and cedar forests, what's not to like? Thanks for taking us along, Chris.

    I got my sea legs on the Alexander von Humboldt I, a 46m sailtraining barque which ran a standard three 4h watches and covered quite a lot of ground, so sailing at night is something I just did in due course right from the start. It is indeed magical, and as I found out later on smaller boats with more responsibility: can be quite nerve wracking at times. But I've never been afraid of it. In some ways I find it's actually easier. If the weather is clear navigation markers are visible over a much longer distance, and there is a lot less traffic typically. And once you have settled into night vision, a little moon light goes a long way on the water.

    I've spent many hours on that particular focsle, staring out ahead into the night, staysail sheets gently creaking in the blocks, first hints of sunrise coming on. Good times. Four to eight is a great watch, except maybe if you have a right slave driver of a bosun.

    (Thanks wiki for the photo. I was always to busy sailing to take pictures.)
    Cheers Moritz. I would like to have had more formal maritime training when I was younger. All of my experience comes from doing things badly and making mistakes at first, followed by doing thing somewhat less badly over time. So it goes. By now I think I've done most things about as poorly as it is possible to do without incurring disaster, so with some luck I may be approaching competence. I can only hope!

    I don't know that I would do another all-night run without someone else with similar experience to take a watch, but I'm glad we did it. It was a great experience, one which I have not had since I was in my twenties.
    - Chris

    Any single boat project will always expand to encompass the set of all possible boat projects.

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  21. #546
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    My internal clock had no respect for the labors of the previous day and night, and roused me at my usual 0600 wake up time the next morning. Wednesday, August 12th - our wedding anniversary - dawned with the promise of more sunshine, light wind, and the entire San Juan archipelago within easy reach. After the morning row and shore visit, during which I snapped a few more photos of Skookum Maru with her companions...



    ...we spent a lazy morning at anchor, doing nothing much. Although we did learn that our spot in the harbor was right on the taxiway for the Kenmore Air seaplanes!



    I saluted the pilot with my coffee cup and he gave me a wave as he went by. A Pacific Northwest moment.

    After breakfast we discussed our plans for the day. We were happily situated in Deer Harbor and I was looking forward to a day off from cruising. But for the past few years we have kept a tradition of having our anniversary dinner in Friday Harbor - a tradition that we didn’t want to break. We also needed a few supplies that we would be unlikely to find anywhere else. So after some back and forth we decided to abandon the comforts of our latest anchorage and head out again.

    The town of Friday Harbor, on San Juan Island, is the largest community in the San Juans and lies just a few miles down San Juan Channel from Deer Harbor. So less than an hour after weighing anchor we joined the traffic - ferries, fishing boats, whale watching boats, skiffs, sailboats, power boats, seaplanes, schooners and other miscellaneous watercraft - heading into the port.

    We had hoped to tie up at the marina just long enough to pick up a few supplies and a takeout dinner from Downriggers, the fancy restaurant by the harbor, but a quick chat with the harbormaster quickly disillusioned us. There was no room at all on the temporary mooring dock nor did it look like there would be any time soon. So instead we trolled the anchorage north of the harbor, looking for a place among the crowd of boats and private moorings.

    Finding no space large enough there, or even close, we then headed for the other - and equally crowded - mooring field south of the ferry lanes. Where, after touring through a couple of times, we settled on a little patch of water that was both as far away from the dinghy dock as it was possible to be, while also edging right on the ferry lane. Not a very desirable piece of marine real estate but it was all we were going to get so we dropped anchor, set it well, then set it hard again to be sure. It would be uncomfortable to find ourselves dragging into the ferry lane just as one of those green and white giants came steaming around Brown Island!





    That iPhone photo does not show how close the ferries really were coming to us. We were not actually in the lanes, as we were tucked just behind Brown Island, but they were close! However there was nothing to be done about that so we rowed into town, did our shopping, picked up takeout (bouillabaisse, salmon, and a burger for Dash), and rowed home again to enjoy our dinner. With perhaps not the same level of elegance and service we would have in other years, but with no less of a view or ambiance. It was a lovely evening.
    - Chris

    Any single boat project will always expand to encompass the set of all possible boat projects.

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  22. #547
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    A note of appreciation for your work and diligence in putting these stories together, its a great pleasure to read and follow. You've achieved "save for later" status for me when you post updates, putting you in an elite company. This means that when I see an update has posted, I'll wait until I'm going to have time to read and enjoy, instead of a quick scan. Thank you, and carry on please!
    Brian

  23. #548
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    Quote Originally Posted by Boatsbgood View Post
    A note of appreciation for your work and diligence in putting these stories together, its a great pleasure to read and follow. You've achieved "save for later" status for me when you post updates, putting you in an elite company. This means that when I see an update has posted, I'll wait until I'm going to have time to read and enjoy, instead of a quick scan. Thank you, and carry on please!
    Brian
    Thanks Brian. I'm really glad you are enjoying the story of our travels with Skookum Maru! It's also a nice way for me to extend and relive our time on the water, which is always too short.
    - Chris

    Any single boat project will always expand to encompass the set of all possible boat projects.

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  24. #549
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    We spent Thursday morning at anchor in Friday Harbor...



    ...working on minor boat chores. The first task was to make yet another attempt at restoring the solar panels to operational status. Previously I had found that they would work for a short period of time if I pulled and replaced the inline fuse between the controller and the battery bank, but would stop working again after a few minutes. The fuse holder and fuse both seemed fine but the previous day’s shopping trip I had picked up an assortment of fuses to see if replacing it would solve the problem. (Yes, I know that I should have had them already on hand. Mistakes were made. Lessons were learned.)

    Not really expecting to fix the problem so easily - I thought that the controller was the most likely cause - I popped in the new fuse. Within a few seconds the charging monitor showed that the solar panels were back online. But would they stay that way? I waited. And waited. And went about other chores. And the panels stayed working. And they continued to do so for the rest of the trip. Problem apparently solved. I never did figure out what was wrong with the old fuse. It wasn’t blown. Bad connection of some sort I assume. I’m just happy that it was so easy to fix.

    The next job took rather more effort. I had suspected that the refrigerator, a somewhat ancient Vitrifrigo unit, was not actually maintaining a safe temperature. So when I bought the fuses I also picked up a fridge thermometer and checked it. And indeed, it was reading well over forty degrees (that’s full-size, made-in-America, fahrenheit degrees for all y’all people not from around here). Not at all good. Food poisoning would be a bad way to end our vacation.

    A little research revealed that frost buildup in the freezer would cause the thermostat to read low, preventing the refrigerator from operating correctly. And we certainly had a buildup of ice that needed to be dealt with. I didn’t really want to turn it off and wait several hours for it to melt, but while we may not have had fuses aboard, we did, for some reason, have a heat gun. (I think I used it for heat shrink tubing on a past project and just left it aboard). However it got there, it was the perfect thing for this job. A few minutes of careful work with the heat gun removed the ice buildup and soon the refrigerator was humming quietly to itself. Another check a while later showed the temperature down in the safe range. Intestinal distress averted.

    Next we considered the options for our next destination. Friday Harbor was well enough, but we hadn’t come all this way to sit and watch the ferries come and go, and come and go, and come and go.



    No, what we wanted was to sit and watch nothing at all. Peace and quiet. A good book. Maybe a hike on shore. All of which we would find, as we had always found them, in Reid Harbor on Stuart Island, our favorite spot in the San Juans since we first visited there on our honeymoon some fourteen years ago.

    Stuart Island lies at the very northwest tip of the San Juans. Next stop is Canada, where - sadly - we cannot go right now. Most of the island is private but it provides two large and sheltered harbors, Reid and Prevost, a small state park with docks in both harbors, miles of hiking trails and dirt roads, a lighthouse and many other attractions.

    So just before lunch we said goodbye to Friday Harbor and headed north again, up San Juan channel, past Spieden Island (formerly an exotic game preserve for a brief period in the 1970s) and into the familiar, sheltering arms of Reid Harbor. Where we found, unsurprisingly, a forest of masts. A flock of trawler yachts. A herd of cabin cruisers. Like every other place we had visited, the anchorage was packed.



    But here our past experience proved an advantage. Knowing that we had good depth and no obstructions right up to the rocks on the north side of the harbor, we were able to tuck into our favorite spot between the shore and the rest of the boats. Not too close to the public dock, but still only a short row away.





    And while we counted over sixty boats in the harbor, Reid is large enough that there was still room enough for everyone. So with chores done for the day, Skookum Maru securely moored in a corner of the cove, and the late-afternoon sun gilding the shore, we found our quiet spot and determined to stay there for as long as possible.
    Last edited by cstevens; 08-24-2020 at 08:53 AM.
    - Chris

    Any single boat project will always expand to encompass the set of all possible boat projects.

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  25. #550
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    Chris, let me add my voice to the chorus thanking you for the beautiful pictures and prose.

    And a note:

    Quote Originally Posted by cstevens View Post
    0430. AIS showed a vessel - the freighter Westward out of Victoria - heading around Scatchet Head and coming up Possession Sound behind us, moving fast. Will they see us? I edged toward the west side of the sound, hugging the shore of Whidbey Island, and watched the lights of the freighter turn up the channel and head toward us. They would turn and head east into the port of Everett I assumed. And yet the ship passed very close by - a huge black wall eclipsing the lights of the shore - before swinging around Elliott Point and away toward the port.
    The "I assumed" part there kind of got my attention. It's true you can generally figure out what a big boat is up to; they usually aren't capricious. And it's good to keep your nav-savvy Mark I eyeballs trained. I certainly don't think you were being unsafe. But maybe a little technology could help. Set up the VHF to scan the VTS channel (14 or 5A depending on what part of Puget Sound you're in) and you can hear reports of intentions. You have the ship's name on the AIS, you can hail them on the VTS channel or Ch 13 (Bridge-to-bridge nav safety channel) to make passing arrangements if you have any doubt. I imagine the best thing for night ops would be to have a AIS transceiver, not just a receiver, and be a full participant in VTS... but S.M. isn't set up for that. Yet.

    More info on VTS for anyone interested: https://www.pacificarea.uscg.mil/Por...UserManual.pdf. Arrangements differ in some details north of the border.

  26. #551
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    Hey Chris,

    What beautiful photographs! Makes the better half and I want to be cruising again and relive that wonderful feeling of being at anchor sway. [BTW, I still get up at night to do anchor watch although we're on the hard.]

    We hope to have Night Heron "officially launched" by mid-autumn so that we too can cruise our area and get on the hook again. So Chris, here you have us suffering from "happy for you envy" and wishing to do likewise.

    Keep those postings, cruising or building/repair coming!

    Stay safe, stay healthy.

    J.
    "Ships are the nearest thing to dreams that hands have ever made." Robert N. Rose

  27. #552
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    Quote Originally Posted by _QB_ View Post
    Chris, let me add my voice to the chorus thanking you for the beautiful pictures and prose.

    And a note:



    The "I assumed" part there kind of got my attention. It's true you can generally figure out what a big boat is up to; they usually aren't capricious. And it's good to keep your nav-savvy Mark I eyeballs trained. I certainly don't think you were being unsafe. But maybe a little technology could help. Set up the VHF to scan the VTS channel (14 or 5A depending on what part of Puget Sound you're in) and you can hear reports of intentions. You have the ship's name on the AIS, you can hail them on the VTS channel or Ch 13 (Bridge-to-bridge nav safety channel) to make passing arrangements if you have any doubt. I imagine the best thing for night ops would be to have a AIS transceiver, not just a receiver, and be a full participant in VTS... but S.M. isn't set up for that. Yet.

    More info on VTS for anyone interested: https://www.pacificarea.uscg.mil/Por...UserManual.pdf. Arrangements differ in some details north of the border.

    Thats a really good point Paul. I've never developed the habit of monitoring commercial VHF traffic and I definitely should. I don't know if it would have made that much difference in this case, as we were not in the VTS zone at the time - there are no VTS lanes in Possession Sound - but it's still possible that they would have signaled their intentions on channel 13. And, of course, there was nothing stopping me from hailing them on 13 and confirming that they saw Skookum Maru. That would have been worth doing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kapiteinterzee View Post
    Hey Chris,

    What beautiful photographs! Makes the better half and I want to be cruising again and relive that wonderful feeling of being at anchor sway. [BTW, I still get up at night to do anchor watch although we're on the hard.]

    We hope to have Night Heron "officially launched" by mid-autumn so that we too can cruise our area and get on the hook again. So Chris, here you have us suffering from "happy for you envy" and wishing to do likewise.

    Keep those postings, cruising or building/repair coming!

    Stay safe, stay healthy.

    J.
    Thanks Joe! I'm looking forward to your official launch of Night Heron as well. Are you still planning to build a cuddy cabin?
    - Chris

    Any single boat project will always expand to encompass the set of all possible boat projects.

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  28. #553
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    The next morning - Friday, if we are keeping track, which by this time we were not - we were greeted yet again by sunshine and blue skies. And with no chores to be done, no need to up anchor and head out for some other harbor, no errands to run, no supplies to gather, we settled into a real day of rest at last.

    Of course “rest” is a relative thing. In our case it meant starting the day with a shore hike, or rather a scramble, as the trails on Stuart Island are anything but flat. Having done the hike to the lighthouse at Turn Point last year (a source of some chagrin on the part of the captain, who was entirely wrong about both the length and difficulty of that hike, and has yet to live it down) this time we just walked one of the shorter trails which runs along the shore of Reid Harbor before looping around past Prevost on the other side.







    Then Dash went swimming. It was much too cold for me and Tory but Dash is a fish and does not care about the temperature at all. So we watched as he circled the boat - refusing to stop until he was shivering and turning just the slightest bit blue.

    After dinner, we ended the day with smores toasted over the butane burner. Not as satisfying or flavorful as the true campfire variety, but a treat nonetheless.



    Then a row ashore to walk Addie, and to capture a last photo of the day as the sunset painted Skookum Maru in pinks and blues.



    Or perhaps not quite the last photo, as we were gifted this final view as night dropped over the harbor.



    Tory and I stood in the cockpit watching the stars for a while after Dash went to sleep. A shooting star flashed overhead, we made our wishes, and then turned in. Around our little boat the world revolved in chaos and crisis. Soon, we knew, we would be pulled back into that maelstrom. But in this moment we were free to enjoy the restless, joyful, quiet, mischievous ways of the water, so very different from the cares and responsibilities of life on land.
    Last edited by cstevens; 08-25-2020 at 12:26 AM.
    - Chris

    Any single boat project will always expand to encompass the set of all possible boat projects.

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  29. #554
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    Quote Originally Posted by cstevens View Post
    I don't know if it would have made that much difference in this case, as we were not in the VTS zone at the time - there are no VTS lanes in Possession Sound - but it's still possible that they would have signaled their intentions on channel 13.
    Doesn't have to be a lane... VTS applies to all navigable waters of the Salish Sea.

  30. #555
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    Quote Originally Posted by _QB_ View Post
    Doesn't have to be a lane... VTS applies to all navigable waters of the Salish Sea.
    Well that sent me down the rabbit hole Paul! This was new information to me so I read the guide you posted above. And now I know many things that I did not before. It turns out that what I have been thinking of as the "VTS" is really only one part of the entire system, the "TSS" (Traffic Separation Scheme). And, as you say, the VTS applies to all vessels regardless of whether they are operating within the TSS. But radio communications for ships participating in the VTS are governed by the Vessel Movement Reporting System (VMRS), another subset of the entire system. There are other components as well. I do not envy the professional mariner who must interact with that web of technologies and regulations.

    But even after digesting all of this new knowledge I am still left wondering how a small recreational vessel would use it to operate safely. The only guidance that the document provides that is directly related to vessels which are not participating in the VTS essentially echoes what I already knew. Stay out of the TSS. Vessels using the TSS have right of way. Cross astern of vessels in the TSS, etc.

    Ultimately what I take away is that bridge-to-bridge communication is the appropriate way to resolve questions of intent by another vessel. What I should have done that night in Possession Sound was to not assume the course of the freighter, or that they would see and avoid Skookum Maru, but to pick up the phone and ask them. Which I could have done on channel 13, the regular bridge-to-bridge channel, regardless of the VTS, VMRS, etc.

    To be sure, the VTS guide does indicate that the VMRS channels can be used for bridge-to-bridge communication but a) it is unclear whether non-VTS vessels are allowed to use those channels and b) The course of the Westward adds a bit of complexity, as they came down Admiralty Inlet, which is part of the Seattle North region, operating on ch 5a, passed briefly into Seattle South (ch 14) as they turned around Scatchet Head, and then re-entered Seattle North once the passed Possession Point. So what channel were they monitoring when? Do they really switch to monitoring ch 14 for the few minutes that they were in Seattle South? I'm sure a professional would be able to tell me, but I think it's just easier to use ch 13 and not deal with VMRS at all.

    In the end we were well out of the way, and by "close" I meant that we were within half a mile or so of the freighter when they passed. Which is a reasonable gap between two vessels operating in a two-mile wide area. But a quick exchange on ch 13 would have eliminated a few minutes of looking over my shoulder. Something to remember for next time.
    Last edited by cstevens; 08-25-2020 at 12:59 PM.
    - Chris

    Any single boat project will always expand to encompass the set of all possible boat projects.

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  31. #556
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    Saturday morning brought us a mirror-perfect clock calm in Reid Harbor.



    I woke at dawn and quietly made a pot of coffee while the rest of the crew slept in, enjoying one of those moments of stillness which come all too rarely in our frenetic dash through life.

    Soon, however, our shorebound natures asserted themselves. We had to be in Seattle by Monday for work, for various domestic appointments, and to inspect and sign off on our new sewer. (Did you forget about that? I almost did myself, until it came time to write the check. Possibly the most we have ever spent for the least visible benefit. All we got out of the deal was a rather claustrophobic video and a mud pit in our yard. Well, that and the assurance that the line would no longer be blocked by tree roots every couple of years.)

    After some discussion of our options for heading back - whether to run straight through to Shilshole, stop in Port Townsend, or take the Deception Pass route and stop for the night in Penn Cove - we decided to head for Cypress Island, on the east side of the San Juans. Cypress was a destination we had not been to before, and it would put us in a good location to take any of the various routes home - the Swinomish Channel, Deception Pass, or Admiralty Inlet - the next day.

    So after breakfast we raised anchor and left Reid Harbor to make our way east through the islands, retracing the route we had taken previously. Through North Pass, past Deer Harbor, through tiny Pole Pass.



    And then back down Harney Channel, through Peavine Pass and around the north side of Cypress.



    Most of Cypress Island is a state park so we were looking forward to exploring it. According to the guides the best anchorages are on the northeast side - Pelican Beach, Eagle Harbor and the coves in between. So as we rounded the tip of the island we scanned the shore for a spot to drop the hook.

    In all the places we had visited since we left Gig Harbor we had always managed to find some room, but this time our mooring karma deserted us. We tried anchoring in every cove on the east side of the island that offered even a hint of shelter but they were all full. A couple of places seemed promising but the rocky bottom rejected all of our attempts at setting the anchor, dragging again and again off a narrow shelf and into deep water only a few yards off shore.

    There was one little spot just north of Eagle Harbor that looked very tempting despite the admonition by one guide to watch out for a charted rock in that area. With more time I would have liked to explore it with the dinghy, as I suspect that it would be a perfect place to anchor and stern tie once the positions of all of the rocks are known, but that would have to wait for another day and another visit.

    Finally admitting defeat, we considered our choices. We were too late to make slack water at Deception Pass so that route was out. We could head down the Swinomish Channel and stay in La Conner but I didn’t really want to spend the night at a dock if we didn’t have to. That left Admiralty Inlet. The forecast for Rosario Strait and the Strait of Juan de Fuca was for light winds. And we would have plenty of options to anchor around Port Townsend. So we pointed the bow south and headed down Bellingham Channel toward home.



    A few hours later, as we were approaching Point Wilson and Port Townsend, and were thinking of where to stop for the night, Dash turned to me and said “I just saw Orcas!” I was sure he had just seen dolphins or harbor porpoises, which are a common sight in Puget Sound, but no, there they were - a pod of Orca, their tall fins unmistakeable even at a distance.



    All we had needed to make our San Juan cruise complete was a whale sighting, and there it was. We enjoyed watching them for a few minutes, but the sun was heading to the horizon and we still needed a place to spend the night so we pressed on.

    The region around Port Townsend provides several useful harbors. There is room right off of the Port Townsend waterfront itself, although it’s not very sheltered. Port Hadlock to the south is popular, and further south, through the Port Townsend Canal, Oak Bay will do in a pinch. But we decided to head for Mystery Bay, a little cove inside the larger Kilisut Harbor which lies between Marrowstone and Indian islands, just across from the waterfront.

    The only difficulty in that choice lay in the entrance to Kilisut, which is shallow, shoaling and guarded by a long sand spit. The entrance channel makes a devilish loop along the beach and woe to the mariner who strays from it! I had not been in Kilisut since I was a boy and had only a vague memory of the entrance. The sun was setting fast and I did not like the idea of navigating it in the dark. Would we make it?

    In the end we did, just. The sun sank below the western shore just as we cleared the last daymark at the entrance, and we motored slowly down the harbor in the dusk to anchor in an open spot in Mystery Bay as night descended.



    I rowed Addie ashore to the park dock in the dark, and then we all went straight to bed, tired after a long day on the water.
    Last edited by cstevens; 08-26-2020 at 08:26 AM.
    - Chris

    Any single boat project will always expand to encompass the set of all possible boat projects.

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  32. #557
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    Quote Originally Posted by cstevens View Post
    Well that sent me down the rabbit hole Paul! This was new information to me so I read the guide you posted above. And now I know many things that I did not before. It turns out that what I have been thinking of as the "VTS" is really only one part of the entire system, the "TSS" (Traffic Separation Scheme). And, as you say, the VTS applies to all vessels regardless of whether they are operating within the TSS. But radio communications for ships participating in the VTS are governed by the Vessel Movement Reporting System (VMRS), another subset of the entire system. There are other components as well. I do not envy the professional mariner who must interact with that web of technologies and regulations.

    But even after digesting all of this new knowledge I am still left wondering how a small recreational vessel would use it to operate safely. The only guidance that the document provides that is directly related to vessels which are not participating in the VTS essentially echoes what I already knew. Stay out of the TSS. Vessels using the TSS have right of way. Cross astern of vessels in the TSS, etc.

    Ultimately what I take away is that bridge-to-bridge communication is the appropriate way to resolve questions of intent by another vessel. What I should have done that night in Possession Sound was to not assume the course of the freighter, or that they would see and avoid Skookum Maru, but to pick up the phone and ask them. Which I could have done on channel 13, the regular bridge-to-bridge channel, regardless of the VTS, VMRS, etc.

    To be sure, the VTS guide does indicate that the VMRS channels can be used for bridge-to-bridge communication but a) it is unclear whether non-VTS vessels are allowed to use those channels and b) The course of the Westward adds a bit of complexity, as they came down Admiralty Inlet, which is part of the Seattle North region, operating on ch 5a, passed briefly into Seattle South (ch 14) as they turned around Scatchet Head, and then re-entered Seattle North once the passed Possession Point. So what channel were they monitoring when? Do they really switch to monitoring ch 14 for the few minutes that they were in Seattle South? I'm sure a professional would be able to tell me, but I think it's just easier to use ch 13 and not deal with VMRS at all.

    In the end we were well out of the way, and by "close" I meant that we were within half a mile or so of the freighter when they passed. Which is a reasonable gap between two vessels operating in a two-mile wide area. But a quick exchange on ch 13 would have eliminated a few minutes of looking over my shoulder. Something to remember for next time.
    Hey Chris, I really enjoy your writing, and I hope you won't mind if I add a little information.

    While I don't have experience in your part of the world, I spent a fair amount of time hailing other vessels on bridge-to-bridge when I was in the Navy. All the big ships are required to have two radios to monitor both VTS and the navigation safety channel. Common radio courtesy is to hail other vessels on the nav safety channel (usually 16, 13 in your area), then switch to a working channel (72 and 68 are common) so you don't tie up the main frequency. It only takes a few seconds to arrange a port-to-port or other passage. Definitely give them a call if you're about to do something strange. You can ask them what their intentions are, but that usually makes you sound like a nervous ensign who just qualified for the watch--easier to just tell them what you're up to and let them tell you if it'll be an issue.

    E.g. "Freighter Westward, this is M/Y Skookum Maru, request you switch and answer channel 72, 72, over." From there, you can make passing arrangements. "I'm [at 1500 yards on your port bow or wherever], meet you port-to-port." (Alternatively, the big boys will sometimes stay on the main nav safety channel so everyone else nearby hears what they're up to.)

    In a busy area like that, a commercial mariner probably had an eye on you but weren't worried. The Navy is definitely more conservative with distance, but 1000 yards isn't terribly far for a big vessel, especially a steam ship or direct drive diesel. 500 yards is quite close. We had a 250-300 yard blind spot in front of the bow from the bridge, and our ship wasn't that big.

    According to the 2019 VTS guide, page 1-10 says you can use the VTS frequencies for passing arrangements. Pages 1-8 and 1-9 say you can call in as a VMRS user if you really want to. Vessels should be switching VTS frequencies from area to area, so it's easiest to catch them on 13. I'd try the VTS channel if they didn't answer 13 and you really needed an answer.

    Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any questions. Happy steaming!
    Last edited by smitty053; 08-26-2020 at 11:55 AM. Reason: wording

  33. #558
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
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    Seattle, WA
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    Quote Originally Posted by smitty053 View Post
    Hey Chris, I really enjoy your writing, and I hope you won't mind if I add a little information.

    While I don't have experience in your part of the world, I spent a fair amount of time hailing other vessels on bridge-to-bridge when I was in the Navy. All the big ships are required to have two radios to monitor both VTS and the navigation safety channel. Common radio courtesy is to hail other vessels on the nav safety channel (usually 16, 13 in your area), then switch to a working channel (72 and 68 are common) so you don't tie up the main frequency. It only takes a few seconds to arrange a port-to-port or other passage. Definitely give them a call if you're about to do something strange. You can ask them what their intentions are, but that usually makes you sound like a nervous ensign who just qualified for the watch--easier to just tell them what you're up to and let them tell you if it'll be an issue.

    E.g. "Freighter Westward, this is M/Y Skookum Maru, request you switch and answer channel 72, 72, over." From there, you can make passing arrangements. "I'm [at 1500 yards on your port bow or wherever], meet you port-to-port." (Alternatively, the big boys will sometimes stay on the main nav safety channel so everyone else nearby hears what they're up to.)

    In a busy area like that, a commercial mariner probably had an eye on you but weren't worried. The Navy is definitely more conservative with distance, but 1000 yards isn't terribly far for a big vessel, especially a steam ship or direct drive diesel. 500 yards is quite close. We had a 250-300 yard blind spot in front of the bow from the bridge, and our ship wasn't that big.

    According to the 2019 VTS guide, page 1-10 says you can use the VTS frequencies for passing arrangements. Pages 1-8 and 1-9 say you can call in as a VMRS user if you really want to. Vessels should be switching VTS frequencies from area to area, so it's easiest to catch them on 13. I'd try the VTS channel if they didn't answer 13 and you really needed an answer.

    Hope this helps! Let me know if you have any questions. Happy steaming!
    Hey - that's fantastic info! Thanks. That's exactly the sort of guide that is useful to us amateurs. Particularly the part about how not to "sound like a nervous ensign who just qualified for the watch". Which would absolutely have been me. My comm would have sounded more like

    "Westward, Westward, Skookum Ma (mic cut out too soon, stepping on the end of my transmission)" ...pause... "This is the freighter Westward. Go ahead" ... "Captain I'm the little boat northbound off of your port bow. Just wanted to make sure you saw me? (soundling slightly nervous)" ... long pause... "Vessel calling Westward, say again your name please?" ... "um, Skookum Maru?" ...another pause, then in a somewhat dry tone... "Vessel Skookum Maru, ah, yes skipper we see you just fine. We will pass you on your starboard side. Please maintain your heading. Westward out." mic drop.

    Now that I have all of the info needed to sound professional it would be more like:

    Ahem (clearing throat, making sure voice sounds deep, sure and properly seaman-like). "Westward, Westward, this is the motor yacht Skookum Maru" ... "Skookum Maru, this is Westward, go ahead" ... "Ah, captain, switch seven two?" ... "Copy, switching to channel seven two" ... (deftly twiddling the dials to get to 72) ... "Westward, this is Skookum Maru. We are northbound in Possession Sound approximately one nautical mile ahead of you. Confirming you will pass to starboard, over." ... "Copy that Skookum Maru. Passing on your starboard side. Have a nice morning."

    So much better that way. It will never happen of course. No amount of practice is ever going to convince a professional that I actually know what I'm doing. But it's nice to imagine at least!
    - Chris

    Any single boat project will always expand to encompass the set of all possible boat projects.

    Life is short. Go boating now!

  34. #559
    Join Date
    Dec 2018
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    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    Quote Originally Posted by cstevens View Post
    Thanks Joe! I'm looking forward to your official launch of Night Heron as well. Are you still planning to build a cuddy cabin?
    Hey Chris,
    We've decided to start using Night Heron because of your photos. . . sans the Cuddy Cabin for now.

    As of today, Wednesday, 26 August, Night Heron is on the hard, or as hard as it can be on the slipway's pneumatic tires, awaiting her "colors" and a "re-do" of her stripes (gray and red) this week. Once that's done we hope to get inside the hull and finish her interior so we can use her as we take on the Cuddy Cabin.

    The Cuddy Cabin is scheduled to be built off the boat under the shade of the Pergola. The Sun in Florida is, as most everyone knows, an intense UV generator that gives you about 30 minutes before you're, literally, toast.

    So, that's the plan - and the Cuddy we're sketching is rounded in lieu of straight corners so we may be building it for quite a while.

    Stay safe, stay healthy.

    J.
    "Ships are the nearest thing to dreams that hands have ever made." Robert N. Rose

  35. #560
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Location
    Seattle, WA
    Posts
    5,690

    Default Re: Skookum Maru

    Quote Originally Posted by Kapiteinterzee View Post
    Hey Chris,
    We've decided to start using Night Heron because of your photos. . . sans the Cuddy Cabin for now.

    As of today, Wednesday, 26 August, Night Heron is on the hard, or as hard as it can be on the slipway's pneumatic tires, awaiting her "colors" and a "re-do" of her stripes (gray and red) this week. Once that's done we hope to get inside the hull and finish her interior so we can use her as we take on the Cuddy Cabin.

    The Cuddy Cabin is scheduled to be built off the boat under the shade of the Pergola. The Sun in Florida is, as most everyone knows, an intense UV generator that gives you about 30 minutes before you're, literally, toast.

    So, that's the plan - and the Cuddy we're sketching is rounded in lieu of straight corners so we may be building it for quite a while.

    Stay safe, stay healthy.

    J.
    Sounds like a good plan. And yes, I'm somewhat familiar with the Florida climate although I've never lived there. I did at one time have a boat from Florida though. A Huckins. Lovely boat. Put a lot of work into it. Didn't end well. I told the story a few years ago:

    http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...and-redemption
    - Chris

    Any single boat project will always expand to encompass the set of all possible boat projects.

    Life is short. Go boating now!

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