Archive for the 'Sunshine Coast' Category

Stern ties and cultural (in)competence

Smuggler Sunset

At the end of the day, our flawed stern tie provides this high tide view.

Through the heart of the Salish Sea is a cultural fault line that divides most Canadians from most Americans.

We like to swing and they don’t. They like to tie and we don’t.

I’m talking about the art of stern tying. Stern tying is what you do at an anchorage where people stern tie. After dropping anchor you run a line from the stern of the boat to the shore. This means your boat doesn’t swing, although in the wind the stern tugs at its tether like an annoying dog.

Occasionally stern tying makes sense. Let’s say a storm kicks up in Malaspina Strait and along with most everyone else you head for shelter in tiny Smuggler Cove. More boats can squeeze in when they park side by side around the edges, bows facing in in a neat circle. To facilitate the spacing of boats at this location, Provincial park authorities have installed iron rings at intervals along the shore. But even when there are no rings and lots of scope for swinging, the folks north of the cultural fault line will still stern tie.

And unlike those of us from the south, they are adept at it! No sooner is the anchor down than one of the crew gets in the dinghy, takes the end of a yellow plastic line from a bobbin mounted in the stern of the mother ship to the shore, puts it around a tree or though a ring, bring it back to the boat, and ties it two the stern. Done in less than 5 minutes.

Jack’s log offers a single note on a recent anchorage: “The stern tie from hell!”

There are only three boats there when we pull in to Smuggler Cove, a couple of hours south of Pender Harbour. With our pick of where to anchor, we choose our spot and drop.

As Jack at the helm tries to keep the boat off the rocks, I fumble with the yellow plastic line, get into the dinghy and head for shore. Somehow I manage to lose the end the line and have to go back to the boat to retrieve it. This time Jack unspools a whole lot so we can cover the distance. Fortunately, the yellow plastic line floats and doesn’t foul the propeller.

Stern tie is twisted but t
Here’s our set up on an earlier, imperfect stern tie in Laura Cove.  Note the makeshift bobbin mount, the wet shoes and socks and the fenders on the rail that will complicate a future effort that is going into the books as “The Stern Tie from Hell.”

I reach shore, get wet to the knee as I step out on a large flat rock. I secure the floating dinghy, untie the bitter end of the yellow line and scale the barnacle-encrusted cliff – just as well I’m wearing my snow pants. I find a ring, pass the bitter end through it and head back down to the dinghy, now stuck on the flat rock because the tide is falling pretty fast. I climb back on board Aurora as Jack kills the engine. We assess our twisted lines and check the tide tables.

Oops. We’re a more than an hour from the low low in a full mooned spring tide cycle. We’ve got to re-anchor and do the whole thing again!

Our stomachs are empty and our brunch of poutine will have to wait. I pocket a granola bar and head to the bow to raise the anchor. Rather than taking the trouble to open the hatch and flake the chain back into its locker under the V-berth, I bring the chain up on the deck. Then I accidentally step on the windlass motor button and manage to jam the anchor in the cradle and the taught chain on the windlass. As Jack keeps the boat off the rocks, I fetch the hammer, screwdriver and WD40. Swearing like a sailor, I eventually coax the links off the iron ratchet.

Lunch of poutine.

Our poutine brunch finally comes in the middle of the afternoon.

Finally we can repeat the process.  I drop the anchor and feed out a pile of chain. Then I get back into the inflatable still wearing my wet snowpants and shoes.  I tie the bitter end to the dinghy so the line can follow me.  I paddle out (not row, mind you, thanks to the oarlock that broke in Pender Harbor). The cliff is really high now; a vertical foot of tide has run out during the jammed windlass incident.  But with the end of this saga in sight, I bound to the top of cliff and put the end of the line through it. Now all Jack has to do is feed out the line so I can double it back.

Oh oh. Either my trajectory was loopy or the stern has swung, but now the line between spool and water is badly tangled among the spare fenders hung on either side of the $20-used-barbecue-that-has-never-worked.  Now it’s Jack who is swearing. He pulls fenders back over the rail into the boat, removing all play from the yellow plastic line and making things much worse. In the end he has to untie each of the fender lines.

Finally, standing atop the cliff like a resilient mountain goat, I coil all the line needed to reach the boat.  As I climb back down to the dinghy, the barnacles catch the coils.  Once the line and I are safely down in the dinghy heading back to the boat,  the whole scene changes.  The slack line snags on a rock and then another. As I look back in defeat, my paddling takes the inflatable atop the the half of the line already in place adding a new twist.

Our stern lines are rarely parallel.  Often they look

Our stern lines are rarely parallel; sometimes they do a crazy cat’s cradle.

Canadian stern ties result in neat parallel lines from ship to shore. Ours can be more like cat’s cradle.

Stern tying gives me cultural angoisse, existential anomie. It’s one of those times when the local culture seems impenetrable. How much else about Canadians do I fail to understand?  Does any of this behavior carry over to important differences in, say, the way they park their cars?

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49º37.69 N 124º01.31 W and how we got here

Provisioning aside we’re making steady northward progress. On Friday, July 18th at noon we crossed Juan de Fuca on a dependable breeze and a beam reach. Nice sun. A dearth of 1000 ft cargo ships in the lanes. The wind calmed down as we approached the San Juans and we found Cattle Pass calm as we motored through. The bouys on Turn Island being all taken we pulled into Friday Harbour for the night. The next morning we sailed up the channel to the northern most of the San Juans and stopped at Sucia Island. Yes, sucia is dirty but in a nautical rather than en environmental sense: you need a good chart to get into safe harbor.
When we arrived there were already a bunch of boats in Echo Bay – some folks we met from [the Portland Neighborhood of] Goose Hollow counted 99, most all sailboats. We dropped the anchor with the expected trepidation and when it took hold we were within closer spin range of a fine Vancouver 45-footer than we’d have liked. This led to much interrupted sleep between 11 pm and 5 am but to very good sleep between 5 am and 11 am, by which time we were able to nab a free buoy. To our delight another Valiant pulled up near by, the pilothouse version, of which fewer than 20 were built. Though lacking our extra space on deck and below, this is really the ideal boat for the Inside Passage and Alaska. And compared with the Hunter moored beside it, it clearly performs better under sail.
Dawn rose rosy as we pulled out and hoisted the sails. A nice southeast wind and on a broad reach gave us the chance to read and bliss out on the vast horizon of the middle of the Straight of Georgia. Kindle in hand, Jack even bought and received a new book and got a free sub to the Washington Post.
The sun calmed the wind just as we met the outflow of the Fraser River. Finally we were motoring across English Bay. As we rounded Stanley Park and headed into the First Narrows, a huge cruise ship suddenly appeared; no sooner were we under the Lion’s Gate Bridge than an even larger container ship charged forward, squeezing us to one side. Although trained harbor pilots are aboard these vessels, it’s strange that they are not required to be escorted by tugs. (The 60 mile fetch of open seas just beyond the narrows can bring unpredictable seas and winds.) But it must keep shipping costs down.

Customs was a snap – a phone call with boat name and number and our names. No passport info requested; they seemed to know us – homeland security everywhere, I guess. We simply write 20082030675 on a piece of paper and scotch tape it to a porthole. Upon tying up at Coal Harbor Marina next door to the customs dock, we called Frances Dodd but she was already en route home and was off the next day with sister Kika from Amsterdam to join the family in Williams Lake for Skander’s wedding. Checked email, announced safe passage, and invited local friends to an on board pot luck on Wednesday.

The next day Emily Coolidge, whom we’d last seen on Prince Edward Island, came by and over a bottle of Oregon wine let us know that Vancouver is even cooler than we’d suspected. She lives on the west side in Kitsilano and once sister Amanda leaves Nairobi, she’ll probably be her neighbor.

With duty keeping us close to the boat, we didn’t get out to visit friends or tour. But we had a wonderful reunion with Habib, Gulalai and Saeed who showed up our last night in Vancouver with a wonderful fish dish and a bag of goodies for the cruise. After supper, we pulled out our maps and guidebooks as they are going on vacation soon and we’d hoped to rendezvous. Lo and behold, reality set in! There are no roads reaching the coast where we’ll be sailing! Route 101 stops in Lund, just a few miles north of where we are now.
Right now we’re anchored in Garden Bay, in Pender Harbor, inside a maze of islands and inlets on the Sunshine Coast. We’ve finally got the dinghy in the water and will try to find a some wifi on shore. That’s it. This lovely wooden yawl just sailed past – time to be out on the water. (Wait a minute, we ARE out on the water.)


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