This is a blog featuring my personal stories of food, gardening, yachting, photography, travel and life.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Electronics Upgrading

Our beautiful Bayliner came with a lot of gear including a full list of electronics. However, some of the electronics is either outdated or not dependable or both and needs replacing. Where to begin?

We currently have two VHF marine radios both of which are older and I discovered the one on the flybridge isn't even receiving or sending. So we decided to replace it with the out of date but much newer radio currently at the main helm. Replacing it will be a brand new state of the art
Standard Horizon Matrix GX3000S Fixed Mount VHF radio. This one brings us up to date with all the latest options. It includes a large display that will show the current channel and time, as well as our GPS position when connected to the new GPS we will eventually get. The rotary channel knob makes changing the channel just a quick turn. Digital Selective Calling, or DSC, allows us to send for help if needed. With DSC we are not only able to send a distress signal but will also be able to monitor channel 70 for any incoming DSC calls from other boats. The radio has dedicated buttons for 16/9, weather, and PA/Foghorn. When we are ready to replace the radio on the flybridge we can add a RAM+ or RAM3 mic, that allows us just plug it in on the flybridge. This handy mic has most of the controls as the base station without the cost of the whole system.

Our next electronics purchase will be a GPS or global positioning satellite device. Our current one is black and white and has a small screen making it difficult to see and read. The new one will have a significantly larger screen and be in full color.

We are currently looking for a new rigid inflatable boat or RIB to replace our our current fiberglass dinghy which doesn't carry enough payload. We are looking to be able to haul 1,000 pounds or so and 4 people to and from shore on excursions to the San Juan Islands many of which are not reachable without a small boat capable of carrying 3-4 persons.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Rough Ride to Semiahmoo!

Saturday morning dawned partly cloudy but with great promise for a beautiful day. The weather station on my VHF radio indicated things were going to get better as the day went on and so the decision was made to cast off all lines and back the the Key of Sea out of her berth at Squalicum harbor. We had spent some time perusing our current and tide charts ahead of time and discovered we would have favorable currents all the way to our planned destination of Semiahmoo, a resort with a small marina 38 nautical miles north of Bellingham and our almost home had the Squalicum berth not opened up. We made a quick stop at the dump station in the marina and then headed out of the harbor. The wind was calm, the sun shining and Bellingham Bay unusually calm. What a day lay ahead!

We steamed southwest for about an hour towards the tip of Portage Island and then, rounding the point, headed north into Hale Passage. As soon as we entere
d the Passage we almost immediately picked up speed. From our usual 7 knots we jumped to nearly 9 as a result of the current and tidal forces helping us along. And for the rest of the day we took advantage of these conditions. However, as we exited Hale Passage and ventured out into the Strait of Georgia, we were buffeted by the swells and white caps coming at us from the west. The rest of the way up the coast to Semiahmoo was a bit rough but we were excited by the fact that we had judged the currents correctly and were taking full advantage of them. We were able to make the journey in only 4 and a half hours instead of the 5 plus hours we had expected saving not only time but valuable fuel. Rounding the point and heading up the inlet towards Drayton Harbor, home of both the Semiahmoo and Blaine marinas, we noticed a sqaull line off to the west.

We reached the harbor entrance just as rain drops began to fall and the wind also picked up rather significantly. Lowering our engine speed to the posted 4 knots we were able to quickly locate the waterway leading to our assigned berth in D17. I slowly inched us towards the berth and began to maneuver the boat into the slip when Leslie hollered that I was headed into the wrong one. I reversed engines and began to maneuver into position to head into the correct slip when I was suddenly hit by a wind gust that sent us heading into a bo
at on the opposite side of the waterway. I gunned the engines to stop our progress astern and managed to get out of the situation. However, I noticed the boat hadn't responded the way I expected. I was clear of hitting any other boats but now I was being pushed by the wind into an empty slip on the wrong side of the water way. Gunning the engines again to help counter the wind gust still blowing me willy nilly, I noticed my port engine was not responding in reverse. I was in territory I'd never been in before and at the mercy of the wind. Fortunately, the boat was drifting perfectly into position to move into the empty slip and so I made the decision to go where the boat and the wind seemed to want me to go. We inched into the spot with no further problem which gave us the opportunity to then regroup and think about how to move to our assigned berth across the way. Another boater saw our delimma and came running over to help. We explained what had happened and he grabbed the stern line and tied us off. He told us the berth we were in was probably vacant and we could stay there if we wanted. I was happy to at this point especially considering the weather situation. With the aid of our new friend we went ahead and tied off the boat.

I was shaky from the experience and needed to sit down for a bit.
When I was feeling a little more like myself we decided to go ahead and head over to the resort for dinner as we'd planned. The walk across the marina to the gate was a bit wet as it was still drizzling but the weather was obviously starting to calm down. Packers is the bar at the Semiahmoo Hotel Resort and the view across the Strait of Georgia is breath-taking. The walk from the marina was only a few hundred yards so we were there in no time. We took a table right along the massive north-facing windows and took our first deep breathes since docking. I ordered a plate of pasta with an alfredo sauce combined with BBQ sauce and a grilled chicken breast. Big mistake! The food tasted fine, nothing spectacular, no garnish. The food just laid there uninspired. Plus everything was ala carte so it wasn't a complete meal. My wife ordered a hamburger. Much better idea. Her meal arrived with a heaping portion of fries AND onion rings, lots of veggies on the side to either add to the burger or eat on their own. The patty was obviously hand formed and it had a beautiful layer of cheddar cheese and two thick slices of bacon on a very nice roll. We each had a beverage, she a glass of beer from their nice selection of micro-brews and I had a bourbon and 7 (overpriced at $8). Service was warm and friendly.

After dinner we drifted out onto the lawn area behind the hotel and sat in rocking chairs watching the sun set. The weather had calmed sig
nificantly now and other than an autumn chill in the air, the sky had cleared and the wind calmed. Walking back towards the boat we wandered through the resort shops and checked the menus on the other restaurants. Back at the boat we battened down for the night, closed up the curtains so as the close up the fish bowl effect and settled onto the setee for a few games of Yahtzee. By 9 o'clock, exhausted by our experience we went downstairs to our stateroom and off to bed.

Sunday morning dawned bright and beautiful. There was no sign of the foul weather from the afternoon before. Our current and tidal charts suggested if we left around 9 am we would have favorable currents heading south towards home. So we decided to skip the fancy hotel breakfast and stop in at the
marina grocery to pick up a few things for a simpler meal. A couple of small boxes of Raisin Bran, a pint of milk, a banana, a muffin and two coffees. A fine, cheap breakfast and we were on our way. We paid our fees at the harbor office then headed back the boat. A quick breakfast aboard and then we started up the engines.

We cast off the lines
and to our surprise, reverse was working fine again as we inched out of the berth. We headed out of the harbor and turned our bow towards home. The trip home took advantage of the currents only in reverse this time. Fascinating! Suddenly, we felt one of the engine's speed drop off for no apparent reason. Oh, God, now what? I throttled back on both engines to 1800 RPMs. Everything settled down fine. We debated over whether to turn back to Semiahmoo but decided to go on.

Later on the journey home Leslie decided to go up on the flybridge to take in the sun and views. When she got up there she noticed the canvas cover over the bridge had loosened. She figured out that when the canvas came loose it had hit the throttle on the starboard engine causing our scare. Whew! Well done Admiral!
The rest of our passage across the Strait of Georgia was speedy but included a nearly constant sideways back and forth movement from the swells rolling through on their way into the shore. Only when we entered Hale Passage did the water settle down to nearly flat calm. The currents were helping hurry us along the whole way at nearly 9 knots again.

Seeing Bellingham spread out before us never looked so good as we turned the point at the end of Portage Island.
Our confidence is growing with each adventure we take. We are actually thinking about a cruise to Friday Harbor next weekend, weather permitting of course. Getting a little help from our current chart would be great too.