Our Caribbean Adventure: Part One.

Our Caribbean Adventure: Part One.

In 2012 we decided to sell our 37′ Gozzard Cutter (Ravenclaw) and buy a larger boat in a warmer locale. After much research and consideration we settled on a French built ketch, an Amel. We decided on the 46′ Amel Maramu model built in the 1980’s.

We searched for an acceptable Maramu while waiting for the right buyer for our Gozzard. We hoped to find an Amel in Mexico or Central America but we found the right boat for sale in the British Virgin Islands, on the island of Tortola. With the help of a broker in California we determined that the boat (Languedoc) was an excellent candidate for us. We flew to Tortola for a detailed inspection, survey and sea trial.

Thus began our Caribbean Adventure.

I will keep this short. The boat was near perfect. New engine, new electronics, new rigging, refurbished genset, etc., and a very conscientious owner who was also a marine mechanic and electrician. She had some cosmetic blemishes but Languedoc was fully ready for extended blue water cruising. The Seller was not able to follow through on his plans. His loss, our gain.

The Survey came though with no only minor suggestions for changes. The sea trial went great. We closed on the purchase a few weeks later.

We quickly learned the Caribbean is a very expensive place. The summer storage on land at Nanny Cay Marina on Tortola was three times the cost of our 44′ foot slip in Semiahmoo, Washington. Parts and labor are usually double the cost we were used to. Plus, we discovered the reality of “3rd World Service, 1st World Prices”.

We were warned not to have any unsupervised boat work done so we hired a “manager” recommended by the Tortola broker. We needed minor work. (A little repair to remove some rust along the keel to hull joint and new bottom paint.) But after delaying the work for 2 months the manager and boat yard got it done just one day before our scheduled launch in November. They did such a poor job that large patches of rust appeared on the iron keel just days after launch. It turned out that the contractor removed the epoxy coating from the iron keel, let it sit exposed to the salt air keel-port sideover night, and then painted on one coat of rust preventive paint, immediately followed by Micron 66. All in all, a terrible job. Fortunately, we had not yet paid for the work when we discovered the problems. After much frustration and angst we decided to do our cruising and then figure out how to fix the problem afterwards.

We enjoyed 4 weeks of hanging out and cruising in the Virgin Islands. We hit the highlights of the BVI’s, and St. John and St. Thomas. We swam, snorkeled, ate meals at restaurants on the beaches, shopped for tourist souvenirs, and enjoyed ourselves immensely. Our new boat turned out to be far more complicated than I knew and much of my time the first few days was spent figuring out the computer controlled electronics, the genset, the wind generator, the single sideband radio, and other features new to us. Finally, black point parkafter much trial and error I relaxed into a mindset consisting of resignation and new understanding. Some things I figured out, and other things I simply left for later.

We discovered that staying in most marinas in the British and U.S. Virgin Islands is prohibitively expensive (often around $130.00 per night) so we usually stayed at public buoys or anchored. The buoys usually cost $30.00 per night. Some were free. The bays, harbors, and parks (especially St. John) were wonderful. The normal Virgin Island crowds were non-existent in November and December. It was warm all the time.

We decided to go to Puerto Rico and so we headed west. Once we arrived at Culebra, Puerto Rico, we anchored in the large, semi-protected harbor and began to enjoy that delightful island. But we were pressed to get on to Fajardo, Puerto Rico so we ended up leaving one day before we wanted to. We broke a long established rule (NEVER SAIL ON A SCHEDULE) and ended up in the remains of a 4 day storm. The 25 miles to Fajardo were nasty. When we left, it was too rough and windy in the anchorage to muscle our 190 pound dinghy onto the foredeck so we towed it with a securely attached bridle. But the 10′-12′ seas eventually ripped it free and it was lost at sea. We made it to Puerto Del Rey Marina and got safely tied to the dock in a secure slip. We selected that Marina because the boatyard there came highly recommended to re-do the bottom work and fix the mess left over from Nanny Cay. That turned out to be true and the work done by Island Marine, Inc. was excellent. Curt & I in Puerto Rico, last day Dec 2013In late December we flew home with Languedoc safely stored out of the water in the huge land storage area.

In the meantime, life intervened so it was spring before we could return. We went to Puerto Rico in May, 2014 to supervise the hull repair work, to do various repairs and improvements ourselves, and to put Languedoc into hurricane storage for 2014. We combined a vacation in Puerto Rico with work on our boat. As it turned out, at Island Marine there was no need for me to supervise every detail (as I should have done on Tortola). The boat yard owner carefully oversaw all the work and it was done right this time. We had a nice vacation, toured the Island of Puerto Rico and secured Languedoc for the summer.

Preparing a sailboat for hurricane storage is another unique aspect of Caribbean cruising. Many people leave their boats in the water, using chains and heavy lines to tie to sturdy dock cleats on concrete docks, while paying exorbitant insurance premiums and praying for no “Named Storms”. We choose to pay the price of haul and launch for cheaper rates on land storage (half the price of Tortola) and less expensive insurance. Of course, land storage prevents any summer use of your boat but since we live in Washington State day trips and weekend cruises are impossible for us so land storage is acceptable.

Hurricane preparation involves removing anything that might break loose or tear loose from the topside of your boat. This means all sails come off, all halyards are double secured, all canvas is removed, etc. It takes a couple days. Some owners opt to have masts removed as well. The boats are stored tightly packed together, with large, heavy duty nylon straps winched to steel pipe embedded in concrete on the ground. Boat owners are responsible for all the storage prep and strapping to the ground. A properly secured boat is safe for category 1, category 2, and maybe category 3 hurricanes but anything over that and its going to be a mess. At Puerto Del Rey, the hurricane storage area is well ashore, behind a large mangrove swamp. Storm surge is not much of a risk so high winds are the major consideration.

We strapped Languedoc with 4 big straps port and starboard. I tied down for summerdisconnected all the batteries, shut down all the systems, drained all the water, locked all the hatches, tied and double tied anything that could blow around (like the main boom and the mizzen boom) and hoped for the best. Then, I arranged for some additional work by Island Marine during the summer so that someone would periodically be onboard and could notice if anything needed attention. Some owners hire someone to come aboard weekly and personally inspect inside and out but we chose not to do that based upon our unsatisfactory experience with our “manager” on Tortola and the advice of other cruisers who told us it was not necessary. Security is good at Puerto Del Rey, with continuous patrols day and night and a helpful staff in the Land Storage office.

Languedoc survived the summer with no problems except for two small kittens who move aboard in the fall (staying in our cockpit under the hard dodger). Nothing leaked and upon our return in November, 2013 there were no problems (except for some bones from birds the kittens ate). Not even any mold or mildew below. Our new dinghy davits were expertly installed by Island Marine personnel and Languedoc was sitting happily and safely. We came back to Fajardo to launch Languedoc and really get to know our boat, top to bottom, and to fix the cosmetic problems I mentioned above.

Coming Next: Finding a safe, secure, and affordable marina for Languedoc.

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Meeting Nice Folks at Spencer Spit State Park on Lopez Island

Spencer Spit State Park aerial photoOne of the joys of cruising is meeting new people at the places we love to visit.

This year during our annual San Juan Islands cruise we spent our final night at Spencer Spit State Park.  This Park is one of our perennial favorites.  We have been visiting and staying here for over 30 years (not counting my childhood years).  During the late 70’s Mary and I drove our little Datsun down to the beach campsites (that was still permitted back then, before the park was expanded).  We car camped right by the beach.  Now, we anchor out or tie to a buoy and come ashore in the dinghy.dinghy with Mary & TJ

But it doesn’t matter how you get to Spencer Spit, its still a great place.  There’s a huge sandy beach, trails in the woods, and great crabbing (usually early in the season).  Plus, Spencer Spit is a great spot for cruisers with pets like T.J. our dog and every time we visit we meet nice people.  It’s amazing how often your dog will create the perfect opportunity to meet other cruisers and campers.

This year was no exception.  In the morning we were walking the beach and our dog T.J. was walking in the water looking for fish (his new favorite pass time) when he got a bit far away.  I called him back and of course, he came running.  I noticed a women kneel down in the sand as she took his picture sprinting toward me.  Then she came over, showed us the photo on her digital camera, and offered to e-mail it to me.  Her name is Cindy Coker and she and her husband Tom were biking on Lopez Island with their two dogs in tow in little trailers behind their bikes.  Very Cool!

Here’s the photo we received. TJ running on Spencer Spit beach 2014 If it looks professional, that’s because it is.  Cindy Coker has a website and a business taking animal and pet photos and she creates custom portfolios.  Here’s the link.  http://www.cindycokerphotography.com/  Check it out.  She has many beautiful animal shots.

We got a chance to talk about our dogs with Cindy and Tom there on the beach at Spencer Spit and share a few stories and sure enough, a week later the great picture of T.J. arrived in my e-mail.

Aug Sept Ander's boat trip 2007 044

 

All of us who travel around the Pacific N.W. on our boats know about the great people we meet and get to know.  This is just one more example and the gift we received at Spencer Spit really made our day.  (Of course, we kind of think our dog TJ is sort of special but what else is new?)

 

 

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Family Friendly Stuart Island

Stuart Island Marine Park is another of our favorites in the San Juan Islands. The park encompasses two excellent harbors (Reid Harbor to the south and Prevost Harbor to the north) and 85 acres of land between the harbors. There are numerous buoys in each harbor and room to anchor. Each harbor has a dock for small boats and for landing your dinghy.

Stuart Island with labels

Stuart Island satisfies all five of our “family friendly” criteria.

1. Not accessible by ferries, shuttles, or cars.
2. Easily and safely reached in a small boat.
3. Safe for anchoring or for tying to a buoy or dock.
4. Multiple opportunities for fun activities for everyone.
5. Preserves the natural setting while making it possible for thousands of people  to   enjoy the natural beauty.

 

Stuart Island is located north of San Juan Island at the north end of Haro Strait. The weather is typical for the San Juan Islands, with prevailing summer winds from the N.W.. The most popular times to visit are July and August. Before Memorial Day and after Labor Day the crowds drop off and in May and September there will be empty buoys and room at the docks, Reid Harbor dockespecially on week-days. Entry and exit into the harbors is easy but there are charted reefs and rocks near each entry so take care and watch your location. (Do not enter or exit Prevost Harbor at the east end.)

There are numerous activities for families. Crabbing is good in both harbors and there’s good clamming in Reid Harbor when the season is open. The harbors are perfect for kayaking and on warm summer days the kids can go swimming. (It’s best at high tide after the water has come up over the warm gravel.)stuart island with Turn Point The trails are great and the walk to Turn Point sometimes ends up being the high point of a San Juan Islands trip. (We have spent hours watching Orca pods swim by in the Haro Strait currents on their way to Goergia Strait and Point Roberts.)

Between Prevost Harbor and Reid Harbor there are campsites, fresh water spigots, and composting toilets in outhouses. The loop trails around the campsites have nice views of each harbor. One trail goes west through the woods and intersects with the road at the schoolhouse. It is a shortcut to the Turn Point turn point lighthouseLighthouse that eliminates walking down the stairs to the Reid Harbor beach and then back up the hill on the county.

Reid Harbor is larger than Prevost Harbor and has several small floating docks detached from the shore. However, the floats may not be suitable for deep draft vessels at low tide. There is a floating pump out station in the harbor. Reid Harbor also has a large public beach with good clamming when the season is open. There is a campground next to the beach and a county road ends at the beach and leads to the small schoolhouse, the cemetery, and all the way to the Turn Point Lighthouse. Its a very nice walk.

Prevost Harbor is very scenic with fewer buoys and less protected anchoring. The current runs though the harbor and can view of entry to Prevost Harborcause anchored boats to swing erratically. There is a county dock at the west end of the harbor. The county road that runs from there to Turn Point. (The walk to Turn Point is considerably shorter if you land your dinghy on the shore near the county dock.) There are nice campsites in the woods that overlook Prevost Harbor.

Stuart Island Marine Park is a Washington State Park and is well maintained and Reid harbor Trailan excellent place for families.

 

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Family Friendly Sucia Island State Park

Every year thousands of people go to one of the most beautiful places on earth, the San Juan Islands. Some are chartering a boat for the first time. Others are world travelers returning from the South Pacific. They come to visit the crown jewels of the Pacific Northwest, the marine parks that encompass entire islands Some seek challenging passages or secluded anchorages and others are looking for a one or two week family adventure with fun for everyone.

This article is the first in a series to discuss our favorite family friendly places in the San Juan Islands. These are places that are not accessible by ferries, shuttles, or cars. There are places set aside for recreational boaters, easily reached in a small boat, safe for anchoring or tying to a buoy or dock, and full of fun activities for everyone. Many now have bigger docks, more campsites, fancier tables, new composting toilets, and modern log shelters. But they have retained the rustic, magical ambiance that allows families to create memories for a lifetime. Here you will find nature at its finest, with sea creatures, wildlife on shore, and lots of fun for everyone, young and old.

Sucia IslandsSucia Island State park is my favorite family friendly marine park.. It’s north of Orcas Island at the southern end of Georgia Strait. Access is by boat only, about 16 NM from Blaine, about 20 NM from Bellingham, 22 NM from Anacortes, and 16 NM from Friday Harbor. Its also a short distance from three other islands that are State Parks, Patos Island, Matia Island, and Clark Island. To visit Sucia there are tides, currents, and moderate winds to consider but it is a safe and short trip to a wonderful place.
If you are leaving from Blaine you must consider winds and currents in Georgia Strait. From Bellingham you may encounter rough water at the north end of Rosario Strait and from Anacortes you will encounter currents in Rosario Strait along with winds from the north or south. From Friday Harbor, the main concern will be currents in San Juan Channel and Presidents Channel then a short patch of possible rough water at the north end of Presidents Channel. During the summer months the weather is mostly benign and predicable. But before you go listen to the weather reports on VHF radio and the local AM and FM radio channels. Study your nautical chart, check the tides and plan your route to accommodate the currents. The rough conditions will be worst when winds blow against the currents, causing short, steep waves. But even when that happens the distances are short and planning is easy.

The best time to visit is July or August when the weather is usually warm and the chance of rainy days is minimal. It will be a bit less crowded in June and September but mid-summer is the best time of the year for Pacific NW boating.

Sucia Island State Park has multiple sheltered bays and coves. You can pay by the night to use a dock or a buoy or buy an annual park pass before you leave. http://www.parks.wa.gov/boating/moorage/?subject=permit. If you arrive between 11:00 am and 1:00 pm you are almost assured of finding a vacant buoy.

Fossil Bay and Fox Cove CampgoundsFossil Bay has buoys, two docks, and space to anchor. Fox Cove and Ewing Cove have only a few buoys and are not suitable for anchoring due to strong currents. Shallow Bay has buoys and room to anchor. Use caution to avoid the shallow areas. Echo Bay has numerous buoys, a linear moorage system (heavy ropes strung between permanent buoys), and ample anchorage area. Fossil Bay, Fox Cove, Shallow Bay, and Echo Bay all have very nice campsites with composting toilets in clean outhouses.

Sucia Island is place with lots of things to do and room to roam. Plan to stay for at least three nights. Bring your flashlights for evening walks in the forest, your binoculars for watching eagles soar overhead, a good cooler and a gas stove or bar-b-que for picnics or dinners onshore on or on the dock. Bring an attitude to relax, slow down, kick back, or run wild. Leave your “smart” phone behind or turn it off. (The cell service is poor a.) Don’t bring a TV or computer. You don’t need it.

The docks in Fossil Bay have picnic tables for family meals or gatherings. There are numerous campsites with more tables, room for multiple tents, fire pits, and water spigots. (Some may be turned off during dry summers.) The campsites are perfect for kids to set up tents for sleeping ashore and enjoying some time away from the adults. There are Park Rangers to answer your questions and help in emergencies.

Fossil Bay dock

Snoring Bay, Shallow Bay, and Ewing Cove have pebble beaches that yield agates to diligent seekers. The bluffs on the south facing beaches near Fossil Bay are littered with tiny fossils and the reefs exposed at minus tides are wonderful places to explore the tide pools. Bring a book that identifies marina life so the kids can have a miniature biology lesson. You just might start a child on a lifetime career as a marine biologist or fisheries expert. Expect to see multi-colored starfish, baby fish, small crabs, sea urchins, mussels, huge barnacles, sea cucumbers, and other assorted marine life in the tide-pools. Watch for harbor seals as they float offshore. If you see a baby seal on the beach, don’t worry and don’t approach. Mama just left him there for the day while she hunts for fish. Trust me, she will return. Marine mammals are very diligent parents.

There are numerous trails for walking and small forest roads used by the Park Rangers that are great for bikes. The loop trail along the north side has great views of Georgia Strait, the Gulf Islands and the ocean freighters headed north to Vancouver or South-west to the Pacific Ocean. If you look up you will likely see bald eagles high in the trees looking for fish or other prey. There is a nice trail all the way to Ewing Cove, the site of Native American camps from days long past. We have found ancient arrow heads on the beach there. If you find one you must leave it but the fun of finding an old arrow head from the distant past surpasses the urge to take it home.

Early in crabbing season the waters of Fossil Bay and Echo Bay yield tasty dungeness crabs. Fishing is good (when the season is open) along the north side of the Island inside Clements reef. When the weather is calm if you have a good sized dinghy with a reliable engine a trip to Patos Island is a real treat. Patos Island has an old (restored) lighthouse very nice trails, and great beachcombing. , You can also go to Matia Island, tie to the dock or land on the beach and walk the nature trail through the old growth forest. Little Sucia Island adjacent to Fox Cove is a very short distance and you can explore the exposed reef and tide pools on its west side.

Kid in a tree on Sucia IslandThe rocky hillsides above the beaches in Shallow Bay are great for kids to climb (carefully). There is just enough danger to make it interesting. (Be sure you have a good first aid kit to treat the scrapes and bruises that may result.) During the summer months it’s also a good idea to have some insect repellant to ward off the mosquitoes in the evenings, especially on the beaches at Shallow Bay. (If you get bit, find a dried fern with the brown seed spots on the underside of the fronds. Rub a bit of the brown seed on the bite with a drop of water and the itch will stop.)

On hot days the water in Fossil Bay, Fox Cove, Shallow Bay, and Echo Bay will be refreshingly brisk but warm enough for brave swimmers. It’s not the tropics but on a hot day when the incoming tide covers the warm rocks swimming is an option. Bring along an air mattress or an inner tube so the kids can paddle around. Let them launch a log big enough to ride and paddle but be sure to drag it back up the beach when they finish so it does not become a hazard to boats.Mushroom rock in Fox Cove

In Echo Bay expect to see harbor seals floating placidly and slapping their tails on the surface after dusk. If you have a kayak or dinghy with oars take a tour of the rocks along the north side of Echo Bay and keep a sharp eye out for sea otters poking around in the tiny coves. Canadian geese will beg for handouts. If you feed them many more will come. But don’t feed the sea gulls unless you fancy cleaning up the deck of your boat the next morning.

In the summer when the sky is clear the sunset views from Shallow Bay (and Matia Island) are spectacular. Sit on the beach or on a bench above the bay and watch the sun disappear over the horizon. You won’t be disappointed.

There is a reason why people who started visiting Sucia Island 50 years ago still return each summer. If you schedule three or more days for a visit you will discover why. But be sure to bring your children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews. Its that kind of place.

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Boating and alcohol update.

Operation Dry Water.

Washington State law enforcement agencies will participate in “Operation Dry Water” on June 27 – June 29th.

Marine patrols will contact boaters and warn operators about the legal consequences of boating under the influence (BUI). Contacts may also include equipment and safety inspections. In 2013, “Operation Dry Water” resulted in 3,908 boater contacts. According to Washington State Parks there were 1,364 boating safety warnings, 6 BUI citations and 219 citations for other violations.

Boating Under the Influence is a serious crime with serious consequences.  Violation of the BUI law is a gross misdemeanor in the State of Washington.   The maximum time in jail is 90 days and the maximum fine is $1000 dollars. RCW 9.92.030.  But if the arrest is made by the United States Coast Guard a larger fine can be imposed for violations depending on the circumstances. Additionally, a vessel operator under the influence of drugs or alcohol that causes death or serious injury can face a Class B and Class A felony. RCW 79A.60.050 and RCW 79A.60.060.

In addition to the legal penalties boaters should be aware of long range consequences. Insurance costs for your boat, and your car, may increase as a result of a BUI citation. Additionally, because a BUI is a criminal infraction, travel to your favorite cruising grounds in Canada (the Gulf Islands, the Sunshinc Coast, Desolation Sound, the Broughton Islands, Barkley Sound) may all be off limits. Canada routinely prohibits entry to persons with alcohol driving infractions.  It is not clear yet how Canadian authorities may handle BUI infractions since the Washington BUI penalties are different from DUI but you must consider this potential consequence.

Visit http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/information/inadmissibility/who.asp for more information about inadmissability to Canada resulting from DUI convictions.

It is very important to understand that the definition of a “vessel” under the Washington BUI law is very broad.  Despite what you might think or what you might have been told,  “Both the state law and federal BUI regulations apply to all vessels, regardless of how small or however powered. In other words, the laws apply even to canoes, row boats and small inflatable boats.”  http://www.nwmaritimelaw.com/2011/07/washington-state-boating-under-the-influence-bui-laws/

 

 

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Washington State BUI Statute

Washington State’s New “Drunk Boating” Statute is Now in Effect.  Big Changes are Now if Effect.

 

 The Washington Legislature enacted new boating safety laws in 2013.  Included in the enactment are amendments to RCW 79A.60 (Regulation of Recreational Vessels) The new amendments place new restrictions and penalties governing alcohol consumption while operating a vessel.  The new law went into effect on July 28, 2013.

 

A vessel is defined as, follows: “Vessel” includes every description of watercraft on the water, other than a seaplane, used or capable of being used as a means of transportation on the water. However, it does not include inner tubes, air mattresses, sailboards, and small rafts or flotation devices or toys customarily used by swimmers.

 

 A “vessel” includes your dinghy, kayak, rowboat, canoe, etc.  Rowing in your dinghy back to your boat at anchor or at a buoy after a few drinks with friends at the dock or at a bar is governed by the new law.

 

 It is now categorically “unlawful to operate a vessel while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or and drug”. 

 

 A person is considered to be under the influence if within 2 hours of operating a vessel a “person has an alcohol concentration of .08 or higher as shown by analysis of the person’s breath or blood made under RCW 46.61.506”.   

 

That is the same blood alcohol level that constitutes drunk driving in Washington.  But as with drunk driving, you can be found guilty even if your blood alcohol level is less than .08, if you are “under the influence or affected by intoxicating alcohol…”

 

This is an important distinction.  Your ability to operate a vessel may be “affected” after just one or two cans of beer or glasses of wine.

 

 The following charts show approximations for how much alcohol you can drink before reaching the prohibited .08 level.  THESE ARE ONLY APPROXIMATE NUMBERS.  Every person metabolizes alcohol a bit differently and other factors (such as an empty stomach) can have a substantial effect.

 

 

Men

Approximate Blood Alcohol Percentage

Drinks

Body Weight in Pounds

100

120

140

160

180

200

220

240

0

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

Only Safe Driving Limit

1

.04

.03

.03

.02

.02

.02

.02

.02

Impairment Begins

2

.08

.06

.05

.05

.04

.04

.03

.03

Driving Skills Affected

Possible Criminal Penalties

3

.11

.09

.08

.07

.06

.06

.05

.05

4

.15

.12

.11

.09

.08

.08

.07

.06

5

.19

.16

.13

.12

.11

.09

.09

.08

6

.23

.19

.16

.14

.13

.11

.10

.09

7

.26

.22

.19

.16

.15

.13

.12

.11

Legally Intoxicated

8

.30

.25

.21

.19

.17

.15

.14

.13

9

.34

.28

.24

.21

.19

.17

.15

.14

Criminal Penalties

10

.38

.31

.27

.23

.21

.19

.17

.16

Your body can get rid of one drink per hour. One drink is 1.5 oz. of 80 proof liquor, 12 oz. of beer, or 5 oz. of table wine.

 

 

Women

Approximate Blood Alcohol Percentage

Drinks

Body Weight in Pounds

90

100

120

140

160

180

200

220

240

0

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

.00

Only Safe Driving Limit

1

.05

.05

.04

.03

.03

.03

.02

.02

.02

Impairment Begins

2

.10

.09

.08

.07

.06

.05

.05

.04

.04

Driving Skills Affected

Possible Criminal Penalties

3

.15

.14

.11

.10

.09

.08

.07

.06

.06

4

.20

.18

.15

.13

.11

.10

.09

.08

.08

5

.25

.23

.19

.16

.14

.13

.11

.10

.09

6

.30

.27

.23

.19

.17

.15

.14

.12

.11

7

.35

.32

.27

.23

.20

.18

.16

.14

.13

Legally Intoxicated

8

.40

.36

.30

.26

.23

.20

.18

.17

.15

9

.45

.41

.34

.29

.26

.23

.20

.19

.17

Criminal Penalties

10

.51

.45

.38

.32

.28

.25

.23

.21

.19

Your body can get rid of one drink per hour. One drink is 1.5 oz. of 80 proof liquor, 12 oz. of beer, or 5 oz. of table wine.

 

 Although the above charts are approximate values only it is important to realize that impairment begins at very low blood alcohol levels.

 

 The new law also creates “implied consent” to a breath test or blood test.  “Any person wo operates a vessel within this State is deemed ot have given consent…to a test or tests of the person’s breath or blood”  to determine alcohol (or THC from marijuana) content.  Field sobriety tests may also be used to establish whether a person is under the influence.  Refusal to submit to the breath test or blood test will result in a citation for a class 1 civil infraction under RCW 7.80.120.  The specified penalty is a fine up to $1,000.00.   However RCW 3.62.090 (the public safety and education assessment) adds 105 percent to the penalty, so the total fine could be up to $2,050.

 

 Operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol, marijuana, or any drug is a gross misdemeanor.  If you are found guilty, the maximum penalty is up to a $5,000 fine and/or 364 days in jail.

 

 However, the fine and jail sentence is not the end of the story.  Your insurance cost for your boat your will be dramatically affected.  You will have more difficulty getting insurance.  Your auto insurance costs may also be affected.   Additionally, your permission to travel to other countries (particularly Canada) may be revoked.  It is common for British Columbia to refuse travel into Canada to persons convicted of driving under the influence.  It remains to be seen whether the same restriction will apply to persons convicted of boating under the influence.  If so, it will mean being cut off from enjoying some of the best cruising destinations in the world.

 

 Think about that for a minute.

 

 Although the new restrictions have been well reported in newspapers and on-line, it appears the full implications of the new law have not fully set in.  It is still legal to consume alcohol while operating a vessel (unlike an automobile) but if you drink just a little too much and get caught the consequences may be severe.  Many, many people routinely have a drink, or two, or three, or four in the afternoon while relaxing ashore, or while at anchor, or after dinner, before returning to the launch ramp or marina.  But under this new law, doing so in view of a Park Ranger or any other person with law enforcement authority, or even another nearby boater, will put you at risk of substantial penalties, including time in jail.

 

You should expect to see attorney advertising in your favorite boating magazine in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bill Barber: Lagoon Cove Marina, British Columbia.

A friend to all cruisers passes on.

Most all of us who have visited the Broughton Island Archipelago stayed at Lagoon Cove Marina and enjoyed the company of Bill Barber and Jean Barber.  They went the extra mile to provide a safe, fun, and helpful place for cruising boats to stay and enjoy.  We stopped there many times, sometimes twice in one trip.  It’s that kind of spot.

On April 6, 2013 Bill passed away.  He will be missed greatly.

The last time we stopped at Lagoon Cove it was on a rainy day in June, 2011.  We radioed ahead on the VHF and got    confirmation for an available space.  It was our first stop after arriving via Johnstone Strait and Cracroft Channel.  We had not been to Lagoon Cove for three years. 

We arrived at the dock and sure enough, there was Bill standing ready to grab our stern line.  I motored carefully alongside and Mary tossed him the line and stepped off to secure the bow.  I shut down the engine and jumped to the dock.  Bill handed me the line, looked me in the eye and said, “Good to see you Curt, how have you been?  Thanks for stopping by.”  It was as if we had been there just the day before.  Either he remembered our boat and our names from our past visits (among the hundreds of boats that come by each year) or he took the time to look us up after we called in by VHF.  Either way, that simple gesture immediately made us feel welcome and at home.   

That’s the Bill we all knew.

We stayed two nights, catching up on Bill’s bear stories and eating the free prawns he provided at the evening pot luck dinners.  All the cruisers brought their favorite dishes. We ate like kings and enjoyed the warmth of the big shop that gave us respite from the cold drizzle.

 We left Lagoon Cove and stopped at Potts Lagoon for one night then we carefully transited Beware Passage to Crease Island.  The wind came up from the unprotected east and we rocked and bounced the night away on our big anchor with lots of scope.

The next morning we woke to the sun peaking through the clouds and a hint of warmth in the air.  Without thinking about it I suggested we return to Lagoon Cove to relax among friends for another night.  It just seemed like the right thing to do and it surely was.  The sun came out that day and we got the opportunity to enjoy Bill’s company one last time.  We left the next day with a happy shout of “See you again, Bill” and off we went to enjoy four weeks in the Broughtons.

Sadly, we will not get to see Bill again.   But I have him firmly pictured in my mind as he waved us goodbye from an all time favorite place.

Lagoon Cove will continue the tradition of great service and a happy atmosphere under the management of Pat Kukuruz and Bob Ness, two of the friendliest people at any marina anywhere.  Be sure to stop by on your way to or from a trip north.

Lagoon Cove Marina is a special place and always will be. Bill will no longer be there in person but he will surely be there in spirit.  Just look closely to the end of the dock to see his big smile as he waves goodbye when you leave.

God bless you Bill.  Fair winds.

For those of you who have never visted Lagoon Cove Marina, click here for more information:  http://lagooncovemarina.com/

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Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning

While attending law school in the late ’70’s I got a degree in Law and Marine Affairs.  This entailed studying resource management and the Law of the Sea.  We  learned a bit about pollution, fish processing and product safety.

One subject that has become a concern in recent years regards Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP).  often referred to as “red tide”.  When I was a kid we spent summers cruising in the San Juan Islands and Puget Sound and we never worried about PSP.  In fact, we pretty much dug clams and picked oysters where ever we found them (on public beaches of course).  Those were the days.

PSP concerns should not be confused with contamination from pollution.  Such contamination, often cause by sewage leaks and septic tank drain fields is separate and apart from PSP, and another subject altogether.

Beginning in the 1980’s we all started to hear about “red tide” and hideous stories of people getting PSP and nearly dying.  I think the the most famous account is a story that appears in the annual Wagoneers Cruising Guide.Danger Sign - Shellfish Area CLosed

For a long time I suspected that the scare was an effort to conserve gradually disappearing clams and oysters.  What better way to keep people from digging clams or picking oysters than to tell them they will die?

But the truth seems to be that testing for the toxin has greatly improved (both in scope and quality) and scientists can  detect the toxin at low levels.   Some think it’s due to warmer water and some think it’s due to increased pollution.  I don’t know.  In any event, it is not unusual for entire counties to be closed to shellfish harvesting every summer.  Often the mass closures have exceptions for areas where there are commercial growing operations.  Those operations are required to do frequent testing and those areas are often open for public harvesting.  (For example, Mitchell Bay on San Juan Island.)

In British Columbia vast areas are frequently closed.  Usually the entire area from Queen Charlotte Strait to Alaska is closed   A couple years ago I asked a resource officer about it.  He told me they did not have enough money to test all the beaches in central and north British Columbia so they just close them down. Keep this in mind before you buy an expensive, non-resident British Columbia fishing license.  If all you want to do is dig clams or collect oysters you may find the license to do so isn’t much use due to beach closures and restrictions.

I was told if I wanted to pay to test a particular beach they would do so and then could open it up.  (He said this is the procedure some First Nations groups use to open harvesting in aboriginal areas.)

Regardless  of the reasons for all the PSP closures, I don’t suggest you ignore the warnings or disobey the restrictions.   When a beach or area  is closed, that’s it.  You are not supposed to dig there or pick up oysters, or get scallops, etc.  In some areas, you are allowed to take oysters, but no clams.  In other areas, you can take some clam species but not others.  Often, harvesting butter clams is prohibited because they can be the biggest hazard.   (Butter clams  retain the toxins for long periods of time.)  Crabs are not included in the PSP closures but it is recommended that crabs be cleaned of all visera and guts before cooking.

Cooking shellfish does not make the toxin go away.  Shellfish contaminated with the PSP toxin are just as dangerous after they are cooked.  I have been told that before eating shellfish natives used to rub the raw shellfish on their lips and wait to see if they got a tingling numbness.  (Tingling and numbness are symptoms of PSP poisoning.)  I don’t know if this is true but as a precaution I will often “kiss” my shucked oysters before eating them.  (My wife thinks this is weird.)  Most people think it is best just not to eat shellfish if you are uncertain about safety.

The only way to keep all this straight is to heed the warnings.  Call the hotlines or visit the websites.  Don’t take shellfish from closed areas.

If you like fresh shellfish always check the PSP status.  Washington State Dep’t of Health has a website called Shellfish Safety Information.

The Washington State hotline number is:    1-800-562-5632.

For Canadian information in general visit the Fisheries and Oceans website.  http://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/contamination/biotox-eng.htm.

For information about specific fishery areas, go here:  http://www-ops2.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/xnet/content/fns/index.cfm?pg=view_notice&lang=en&ID=recreational&ispsp=1 

Caution:  The Canadians have made it very complicated to figure out what is permitted and what is closed.  The website has a long list of closed areas, with sub-areas and various species exemptions.  You really have to study the list and it’s is impossible to remember so you must print the copy and keep it with you.  Then, just to be sure, you need to check the webpage to get updates.  This can be difficult when you are on a boat with no internet connection so usually it’s best to call by phone.   In British Columbia, you can call 1-866-431-3474.

My best advice is if you like to eat oysters or clams, check the PSP status before you depart and then behave accordingly.  A Washington State shellfish license is cheap and since crab are abundant and exempt from PSP closures it’s usually worth buying the license just to get some crab.  In British Columbia it’s a different story.

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Do You Wear a Life Jacket?

Do you wear a life jacket?

This is almost as controversial a subject as choosing an anchor.  (We won’t go into that:  too dangerous.)

Wearing or not wearing a “personal flotation devise” (PFD) is a choice that should be considered carefully.

In our cruising waters (the Pacific NW) sometimes it’s an easy decision.  The water here is COLD  and survival time for a man overboard can be measured in minutes.  So when the wind comes up and the sailing gets good we  put on PFD’s, even close to shore.  Swimming any significant distance in 55-65 degree water is unlikely.  Plus, if the ambient air temperature is 65 to 75 degrees, a comfortable life vest keeps you much warmer.

If you choose not to wear a PFD (as is common) please be extra careful on your boat.  Stay in the cockpit and stay alert to sudden wind changes.  If you have to leave the cockpit for any reason put on your PFD.  It only takes a few seconds.

When you are riding in your dinghy wearing your PFD is mandatory (in Washington State) and State Park Rangers will never miss a friendly reminder if you are spotted without one.

My favorite example of a good decision occurred on our first trip around Vancouver Island.  While tied to a buoy in an exposed anchorage during a big blow, I spotted a fellow cruiser’s dinghy break free and start to blow away.  I quickly began to prepare for a rescue.  Mary saw me and said, “Put on a Lifejacket”.   I replied, “Good idea.  Bring one up”.

With my vest securely on I ventured forth in our 12′ inflatable.  I motored to our neighbor’s errant dinghy and tied its painter to my stern.  As soon as I turned toward their boat the 30 knot wind flipped me bow over stern, landing me in the cold water, underneath my formerly dry cockpit.  Fully clothed, wearing boots, and instantly cold.

But aided by the flotation from the vest I was able to swim clear, remove my heavy boots, pick up floating gear (oars, fuel tank, etc.) and climb into the neighbor’s dinghy that was still floating upright.  I was able to use the wind to flip my inflatable back over.  Then I started the neighbor’s engine (ours was waterlogged) and motored back to Mary with our dinghy in tow while she stood watching in shock.

The whole incident probably took 15 minutes and the last second decision to put on that PFD  probably saved my life.

The discussion continues regarding mandatory wearing of life jackets on boats.  The National Boating Safety Advisory Council has asked the Coast Guard to consider mandating that anyone aboard a boat less than 18-feet long be required to wear a life jacket when underway. In addition it asks that all those being towed in water sports, riding personal watercraft, or in human-powered boats of any length be required to wear life jackets as well.  For more details and an opportunity to comment see the full article in Boat US Magazine.  http://www.boatus.com/magazine/2011/June/reports.asp

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Getting to the Broughton Islands

The Broughton Archipeligo contains hundreds of islands, tiny to large.  It is located east of Vancouver Island, at the southern end of Queen Charlotte Strait.  It’s a long way from Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria, and the other large pacific northwest cities but it’s worth the effort.  For more detailed info and some photos go to our Broughton Islands page.

The following is a discussion of how we get to the Broughton Islands, for some of the most beautiful cruising in the world.  These are our suggestions and by no means is there just one “right” way to do it.

1.             There are essentially three ways to get your cruising boat to the Broughton Islands from the southeast.  We will assume a starting point of Anacortes, Bellingham, or points near or around Vancouver, or points near or around Victoria and the southern Gulf Islands.

A.            Anacortes and Bellingham.  If you leave from these areas you have two choices.

First, go west to the Gulf Islands and then head northwest up through the protected waters to Nanaimo, with whatever stops along the way you desire.  If you and everyone on board have Nexus or Canpass permits you can check in by phone and then proceed to a variety of different stops to complete your passage into Canada.  If you do not have permits you must proceed to one of the fewer points of entry.  Popular points of entry are Bedwell Harbor, Sydney, and even Nanaimo if you make a very long first day.  The route northwest through the Gulf Islands is more protected than just going up the Georgia Strait but it will take longer.

Once you are in Nanaimo you must be sure that the torpedo range (Whiskey Golf) is not active, make sure the weather is suitable, and then proceed across the Georgia Strait to Malespina Strait (inside of Texada Island) and then northwest.  If Whiskey Golf is active you must head northwest to Ballenas Island, then continue NW or cut across the Georgia Strait to Malespina Strait.  From Nanaimo, if the weather is fair you can easily reach Pender Harbor, or points further north such as Blind Bay, Sturt Bay, West Sound, Lund, or even Desolation Sound.

From Nanaimo you can also proceed along the coast of Vancouver Island to Hornby Island (a decent anchorage except if winds come from the south) or Comox, or even as far as Campbell River.   But you must have good weather to make the long distances.  Since prevailing winds during the summer are from the NW you can expect to have winds working against you.  If the winds are blowing against the current you can expect an unpleasant experience.  This is why most folks leave from Nanaimo in the morning before the prevailing winds kick up and cross the Georgia Strait to Malespina Strait then stay inside Texada Island.

Second, from Anacortes or Bellingham you can proceed NW up the Georgia Strait.  If you can make it to Nanaimo you can do your customs check in there.  Or you can stay on the east side of the Strait and go to Vancouver and do your check in there.  Either involves a long day and the weather and currents must be favorable.  We prefer to stop at Point Roberts after a relatively short day and then proceed to Vancouver.  Another option is to go to Semiahmoo Marina in Blaine and then (if you have Nexus permits) check in at the White Rook public dock the next morning (about 2.5 miles away).  However, it gets shallow there and we only use that option if we can do the check in at or near high tide.  Power boats with less draft may not have to worry so much.  With the Nexus permits you can call ½ hour before your expected ETA and then proceed to the White Rock dock.  If no one is there to meet you (the usual case) you may proceed without landing.  Its very convenient.  Call in, get your clearance, proceed to the dock, wait offshore and if no one comes go from there.  From White Rock you can easily get to Vancouver, Snug Cove marina on Bowen Island, Gibsons, Plumper Cove, or even Smuggler Cove, Secret Cove, or Pender Harbor.

B.            Vancouver and surrounding areas.  From Vancouver and the area around it is best to simply go up the mainland coast.  You can easily get to Smuggler Cove, Secret Cove, or Pender Harbor or continue even further north.

2.             Assuming you make it to Campbell River or the Desolation Sound area, you have made it through the first Gate, that is the Strait of Georgia.  Now you have another choice.

A.            You can either go NW up Johnstone Strait (from Campbell River) or bypass most of Johnstone Strait by going the “inside route”.  We prefer the inside route.  The reason is that Johnstone Strait is long, has very strong currents (with some dangerous areas) and has prevailing winds from the NW.  If you have a boat that motors at 10 to 12 knots and good weather you can make it all the way up Johnstone Strait in one day but you must go through Seymor Narrows at slack water and then hope you do not get prevailing winds against the current.  If the wind comes up it can really howl at Chatham Point with rough seas and tough going.  If that’s the case, you can bail out by heading NE up Nodales Channel and take shelter at Thurston Bay Marine Park or continue N. to Shoal Bay.  Sailboats can also make the entire Johnstone Strait run in a single day if there are no Northwest winds and the ebb current pushes you along all day.  A southeast wind will help immensely.  With a strong ebb current a sailboat under power may make up to 10 knots over the ground.  However, if there is a NW wind don’t expect to do nearly so well as the wind against the tide will create confused and unpleasant seas.  There are several spots you can duck in and hide along the way in Johnston Strait but if you have to duck in and hide you are having a bad day.  This is why we (with our sailboat and maximum speed of 7.5 knots) prefer the inside route.  However, in 2011 we exited the inside route at Chancellor Channel and motor sailed with the southeast wind and 2 knot ebb current all the way to Havannah Channel and into Port Harvey.  We also encountered several sailboats that made it all the way from Campbell River with following winds and strong ebb current.

B.            The inside route is the best route from Desolation Sound and the Discovery Islands.  It involves navigating Yaculta Rapids, Gillard Pass, and Dent Rapids.  Yaculta Rapids can have very strong currents and during such times must be done at or near slack water.  Gillard Pass can have dangerously strong currents and must be made at or near slack water.  Dent Rapids can have dangerously strong currents and can develop whirlpools that will capsize and sink boats.  These are not areas to trifle with.  That said, the passage need not be dangerous or even nerve racking.

Every mariner must follow make their own calculations depending upon their vessel size and capabilities, their experience, their confidence and the weather.  We have our own basic plan we follow and it works for us.  How we do it is based upon our preference to minimize risk and the possibility of problems.  The following is not advice on how to proceed but simply a prescription of how we do it.

When we proceed through the rapids we do the following.

(1)           We select a time when the tides are not extreme and tidal ranges are at or near minimum.  When the tide ranges (the difference between the high and low tides) are at a minimum the currents will also be less.  There’s a big difference between a maximum current of 6 knots and a maximum current of 3.5 knots.  Its easier to navigate the passage through the rapids when the tidal range is at a low point.

(2)           We chose a time when we can pass through the rapids on the tide changing from flood to ebb.  This means we will exit Dent Rapids running with the current and make good time to our next destination.

(3)           We try to choose a day when the flood turns to ebb in mid-morning to early afternoon.  This means we will have plenty of time to leave our destination (usually someplace in Desolation Sound such as Squirrel Cove, Refuge Cove, Prideux Haven, etc. and arrive at the entry to Yaculta Rapids within our margin of error.  It also means we have an easy run to our next destination, Shoal Bay or Blind Channel Resort.  (We don’t usually leave from Roscoe Bay because then we also have to account for the tide and water depth to exit the Bay and leaving Roscoe Bay at high tide as is necessary means we will not be able to arrive at Yaculta Rapids when the flood is turning to ebb.) If we arrive at Yaculta Rapids bit early we can always slow down and wait a bit.  When we calculate our time to arrive we like to have time to account for the possibility of wind on our bow that will slow our boat speed a bit.

(3)           Since we plan our passage when the tidal range is low we like to arrive at Yaculta Rapids about 30 minutes before the flood changes to ebb.  We enter Yaculta Rapids a the end of the flood tide, on the NE side of the channel just off the marker on Harbott Point of Stuart Island.  Then we proceed NW to Kellsey Point, then cross to the Sonora Island side of the channel and proceed upstream.  This will allow you to ride back eddies on the end of the flood tide.  (An excellent little chart in the tide and current book “Ports and Passages” shows the way to do this.)  You will arrive at Gillard Pass just before or at slack water and can safely proceed and you will make Dent Rapids just after it has turned to ebb.  You should have current with you but since you are going during small tides the current will be less severe and on the ebb current the worst of the whirlpools are minimized. After you exit Dent Rapids you can ride the ebb current all the way to Shoal Bay (a favorite stop) or to Blind Channel Resort (another favorite).

From Shoal Bay or from Blind Channel Resort we can easily make it through Greene Point Rapids and Whirlpool rapids to another good anchorage, Forward Harbor.  If the weather, winds, and currents in Johnstone Strait are favorable we will enter the Strait from Blind Channel, or go through Greene Point Rapids and enter the Strait from Chancellor Channel.  If the conditions are not pleasant we go through Whirlpool Rapids and then we can anchor in Forward Harbor and wait.

Proceeding NW in Johnstone Strait can be uncomfortable if the NW wind is blowing against an ebb current.  The wind generally picks up after noon so going north in the morning is a good idea.  If conditions are bad we just wait it out.  Additionally, Port Neville on the east shore of Johnstone Strati makes a good stopping place if conditions deteriorate.  If not, we like to proceed to Havannah Channel and stop at Port Harvey.  There is a good anchorage at the head of the bay and the Port Harvey Marina is a very friendly and secure stopping point.  (To reach the Port Harvey Marina keep heading north in Port Harvey all the way past Range Island on your starboard side.)

The last “gate” we pass through is Chattam Channel.  It runs from the north end of Havannah Channel through a relatively narrow cut to Minstrel Island and Knight Inlet.  It is important to carefully navigate Chattam Channel but it’s not difficult.  We try and go through near slack water on the high tide.  This gives us a bit more room to maneuver.  There are range markers at the ends of the channel that will guide you through and the shallow points and obstructions can usually be identified by the kelp growth.  We do our planning, go slowly (4-5 knots) and steer carefully.

When we exit Chattam Channel we are at the doorstep to the Broughton Islands. Usually; our first stop is at the slowly disintegrating government docks at Minstrel Island (free moorage) or Lagoon Cove Marina.

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