September 1st – September 14th, 2019
August 31st 2019 was our official leave the dock day. We passed around a bottle of whiskey with David and Lang Lavigne, our marina neighbors, and had one last beer in Anacortes Marina (or so we thought). With our emergency knife from the helm, Austin cut through the permanent mooring line which had been tying us to the dock for the last two years. We headed over to Guemes for a few nights on the hook in front of the King’s West Beach Cabin. Most the time was spent on shore but we did make several trips out to the boat with friends and family. Lots of fun but hard to say goodbye.
Next stop from Guemes was Stuart Island. Unfortunately we didn’t make it far. The alternator was not charging and we were forced to make a quick pit stop on a mooring at Pelican Beach on Cypress Island. After some poking around the engine room and thinking we had it fixed we headed on to Prevost harbor on Stuart Island. Along the way we encountered some thick fog and used our new radar for the first time. At Stuart Is. we were met by five boats of our friends from Anacortes Yacht Club including Pangaea and Black Rabbit. We hosted appetizers for 12 people in our cockpit that night making pizza on the barbeque. The next day we went for a hike with Wendy to the old school house. We met up with the rest of the group at the cemetery and walked down to the county dock. We said our last goodbyes to our yacht club friends and continued on to Turn Point. Elise spotted orcas across Haro Straight and we said our goodbyes to the San Juan Islands from the lighthouse.
The next day we sailed past Turn Point, just like our logo. We sailed on to Sidney BC to check in to Canada and provision for our shakedown cruise. We planned a few days in the Gulf Islands and then on to Indian Arm for a visit with Elise’s Aunt Cindy and Uncle Lothar. We motored and sailed to Montague Harbor on Galiano Island, dropping the anchor on the west side for a sunset view. In the middle of the night we were woken up by a strange noise that turned out to be a seal snoring right next to the boat. The next morning, we planned on leaving early to get to a small anchorage on the north side of Valdez Island. Early on while motoring we realized we were having alternator problems yet again.
After a few phone calls we realized our best option was to head for Vancouver and sort out the problems from Cindy and Lothar’s dock. We made a swift crossing of Georgia Straight sailing in 15-18 knots of wind on a close reach and beam to the swell. The crossing left Austin a bit queasy so Elise made lunch as we waited to transit the Vancouver Narrows into Indian Arm. We radioed the Second Narrows Railroad Bridge to open for us, a new experience for us both. We were tied safely to the dock around 1600.
The boat remained at the dock for about a week as we completed some planned/unplanned projects and spent time catching up with family. Indian Arm is a deep water fjord that is a truly special place with high steep mountains plummeting into clear water that even gets warm enough to swim in during summer months. Originally the property was boat access only and Cindy and Lothar tied there commercial fishing boat to the dock in the off seasons. It was special for all of us to have Atica tied to the dock as they are planning to sell the property soon. Elise had a few sewing projects that included velcro closures for our salon curtains and cutting out 100+ cones from an old main sail to later sew into our Jordan Series Drogue. Austin was able varnish; the teak mounting blocks for the windvane, scuba tank holder, oars and a shelf for the hot water tank. Lothar and Austin went on a mission to find a spare/replacement alternator. After several stops they were eventually successful at a Volkswagan repair shop. By pure luck there was an exact replacement, the dust on the box making it evident that it had been on that shelf for many years. Feeling accomplished and ready to move on we left Indian Arm on Wednesday the 11th of September.
We had a rockin’ sail west across Georgia Straight. With 10-15 knots of wind from the SE we sailed close hauled toward Active Pass. Leaving Vancouver Harbor there was lots of traffic and with a severe heal (leaning of the boat), preparing and eating lunch was interesting. Austin was in the galley while Elise was dodging sport fisherman and freighters from all directions. As we were approaching Active Pass the wind went light and we noticed a group of small boats coming right for us. At first, we thought it was just more fisherman but on closer inspection… they were whale watchers. We scanned and scanned but saw no whales. As the boats approached us, mind you we were sailing with no motor at about 2 knots, they crackled over a loud hailer, “Can you alter your course to port? You are heading right at a group of whales”. As he said this, “sploosh”, a large female orca came up for a breath 10 meters from the boat on our port side. This put all three “orca police” and an orca on our port side. Needless to say, we did not alter course. The whale police continued to herd the pod and we eventually dropped sails and motored through Active Pass. We spent the night at Saturna Island anchoring next to a school schooner with kids singing shanties and practicing for a talent show.
After a lazy morning we were ready to head back to the states to anchor in Blind Bay on Shaw Island. Elise took the helm in low visibility, down pouring rain and Austin stayed dry and warm in the cabin keeping the captain happy with hot cocoa and treats. With Austin still down below, Elise grabbed the mooring buoy in Blind Bay. What a bad ass! With little sunlight the alternator problems revealed itself again and the low oil pressure alarm acting up held another clue to the mystery. That would have to wait until we were back in Anacortes. Austin texted our friend Gavin Bracket who happened to be on Orcas Island, the next island over. That evening he came over in a skiff around 2100 and we drank rum and told stories until late. Gavin departed in a thick and spooky fog.
Needing to get to the root of the alternator problem we decided to head back to Anacortes. As we were about to anchor in Fidalgo Bay, we thought maybe we should call up Claudia at Anacortes Marina to see if she had a slip we could stay in for a few nights. Luckily, she had a spot and we were back where we started the shakedown. David came over and we talked through the alternator problems over a beer, our real last and final beer in Anacortes Marina. The next day we made a trip up to Whatcom Electric in Bellingham to have the two alternators tested. It turns out the alternator was fine and we got some good advice from the owner to test the oil pressure switch. A $10 oil pressure alarm switch that we were able to pick up at the auto parts store fixed the problem. Our solar panels had been working so well that we kept thinking that we had fixed the problem but really it was just great solar production and nice new batteries. A good problem to have! With the alternator problem solved and a successful shake down cruise under our belts we were ready to head for the coast!