June 29, 2005

On to Ganges

Wednesday June 29, 2005

Brrr. It’s still cool but we are having fun.

Bellingham turned out to be a fine marina. As we pulled into our slip, Mike Kirkland (past commodore of the Bellingham Corinthian Yacht Club) noticed our Yacht Club Burgees. We did not turn down his offer of a free reciprocal slip, where we stayed for four nights.

Squalicum Harbor (http://www.portofbellingham.com/marinas/sql/default.htm) was walking distance to town but even better, the Marina has a shuttle to take us wherever we wished. We hit Costco, Best Buy and the local supermarket, Haggen’s to provision.

It is still a small world. The beer can races were called the next day due to rain (usually not a reason) and possible thunder and lightening. Some of the local racers, from the same dock, came by the boat to chat. One was Mike Reed of Islander (an Islander 36), who was on the Baja Haha as crew on At Last. He was the one who took those great picture of us with the spinnaker flying – see: http://raptordance.us/Sailing3/index.html

We ended up meeting a big group of the displaced racers for a beer…a really great bunch. In a few days we met quite a few friendly and helpful people, including local author, Clyde Ford (see http://www.mysticvoyagerbooks.com) on Mystic Voyager, who gave us suggestions on places to stop in the Broughtons (north of Desolation Sound).

Just as we were casting off in Bellingham on Tuesday morning, we found another card left by Larry and Joanie Roteman of Synergy, who we had met in Paradise Village in Puerto Vallarta. They live up here, on Lummi Island (just across the bay from Bellingham).

We spent a day with a great local couple Loraine Boland and Ray Nelson on Allegro, who are friends of Bill’s ex-Wells Fargo colleague, Elaine Felter. They gave us the grand tour of the Bellingham area. And what would that be like without good food? We found a lovely Oyster Restaurant in the woods, overlooking a creek, that made our taste buds very happy.

Ah, but the main reason for being here was to have our water maker serviced. As it turned out, only diagnosis was accomplished. We will have the work done in November rather than taking the time now. We should be able to do without it in this area.

So now we are ready to start moving on. We took the little hop to Echo Bay at Sucia Island, of the San Juan Islands. The bay was so peaceful and the water, like glass.

The next day we headed back to Sidney to meet up with Gordon and Bruce, returning to Berkut, a Waterline 46. We compared notes, Gordon and Bruce, Sailed Berkut from Puerto Vallarta to Hawaii and then on to Canada. We came up on Dockwise. They got caught in a storm coming across from Hawaii which trashed their Genoa and washed their outboard overboard. We all agreed that Dockwise was a better choice.

The water was very interesting, all the rips, eddies and short standing waves. These were no problem for us or the boat, just an interesting variation. We were going with the current, so at times our speed was 10.8 nm over ground. Whoopee!

Customs clearance for us was a phone call. So far we’ve entered Canada twice on Raptor Dance and the US once. Each time we cleared over the phone. To insure that future crossings are as uneventful, we’ve got a US Customs I-68 – see: http://cbp.gov/xp/cgov/travel/pleasure_boats/cbbl.xml and we’ve applied for a Canadian CANPASS http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/travel/canpass/canpassprivateboat-e.html. Each of these allow for telephone check-in when crossing the border.

This time we stayed at the Port Sidney Marina, http://portsidney.com, right in downtown. Talk about convenient! It was lovely. They had some touches that we haven’t seen in other marinas, such as the two hanging baskets of flowering plants at each slip, charming lighting and pet swans.

I must tell you, for the best Fish and Chips EVER, go to Fish at Fifth (on 5th St.) in Sidney. Excellent!

Canada day is coming up on July 1st. So the stores are full of Canada flags, socks with the red maple leaf, etc. We expect music, parties and fireworks. We’ll let you know if they have any different way to celebrate.

That brings us to the present. We are in Ganges on Salt Spring Island. This is north and east of Sidney. It was a short journey on this nice but windless day. You guessed it…more motoring. It appears that we are now a motor boat with auxiliary sails.

Salt Springs is know for it’s artisans, and it’s Saturday market, which has both art work, curiosities and fresh produce. We had fun walking through the shops in town. Much of it reminded me of some of our more colorful towns in the 70’s, even the 80’s…creative, fun and “out there”.

Some nice restaurants too! We’ll give you a full report in our next episode.

Warmest Regards,
Mary and Bill

June 20, 2005

Vancouver Island to Bellingham

We promised a report on the BC Wineries and Vancouver Island sights, but it's been a while - so we'll also fill you in on what we've been up to the last two weeks.

Delightfully, There are some nice wines up here. They are lighter than the wines back in Sonoma. A bit pricey, due to the Canadian taxes - both for local as well as imported wines (e.g. a $7.00 US bottle of Ravenswood Vintner's Reserve for $47 CDN, that's $37.60 US).

The best of the local bunch we've found in Canada (besides Ken and Shirley's home brew) is the Chalet Syrah at $25 CDN - see http://www.chaletestatevineyard.ca/ and the Marley Farms Pinot Noir at $14 CDN (not listed on the website) - see http://www.marleyfarm.ca/. There are also a number places up here specializing in Cider and Mead (Honey Wine) - which we didn't stop at. Many of the wineries also have fruit wines (no comment) and interesting varietals that we don't see in California.

Generally, British Columbia is not yet a threat to the Russian River Valley, the Willamette Valley (OR) or Burgundy for that matter. For our non-wine geek friends - those are the regions that grow the Pinot Noir grape - generally cool areas which those grapes love. We refer you to the movie "Sideways" for more laughs and background.

There's a loophole in the Canada tax law: home vintners and brewers can make wine and beer (basically) tax free. So every hardware store has wine and beer kits. Every community we visited had shops specializing in helping you make wine or beer. Basically these stores took care of pretty much everything, but you were responsible for pitching (adding) the yeast and bottling the results. One shop we visited even had a value added barrel aging service in French Oak!

OK, now the skinny on the sights.

Butchart Gardens http://www.butchartgardens.com/ was simply lovely. Depending on what season you go it's always different, with a constantly changing scene as the different plants come into bloom. Our favorite was the sunken gardens. The Japanese Garden looked to us to be basically a pacific northwest scene with some oriental features. Some of the other areas were not at their prime this time of the year. The biggest disappointment was that the specially designed duck pond had no ducks! Humpf!

What we liked even more than the Gardens was the Victoria Butterfly Garden http://www.butterflygardens.com/. It was surprisingly interesting, with many different colorful butterflies, plus other critters. Plus the orchids and bromeliads added a depth of color not found in the Gardens. Plus other outrageous, rare, in-your-face, colorful tropical and semi-tropical plants. Not to mention the China Quail, especially imported for "ant" patrol, the pink Flamingos, Parrots, Cockatoos and they even had ducks (the smaller Teals).
Oh, I forgot to mention all the butterflies flitting around. We went on a rainy day - and there was still lots of action. On a sunny day, it's even more fantastic as the butterflies are more active.

On June 10th, we moved from the lovely B&B (see our last message) to the Marriott Inner Harbour in Victoria - aren't frequent flyer miles great when you get to use them!

The next 5 days we spent exploring Victoria and environs. We visited the BC Museum http://www.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/, the Maritime Museum http://mmbc.bc.ca/, the Swan Brew Pub and Restaurant http://www.swanshotel.com/pub.html, Chinatown, a harbour tour and lot's of other sight seeing. Highly recommended. Lot's of fun and great food.

We also drove out to Sooke one day and out to Tofino for an overnight trip.

Now in the realm of "What a small world this is!" we had several interesting times:

We visited Rob and Shannon Reiner of MV Sea Bull (who we met in Mexico) at there water front home in Crofton. It turned out that they were related to Ken and Shirley Moncur, our B&B hosts.

Then at the Swan Pub, the couple at the next table turned and said to us, "Aren't you from Raptor Dance". They had been on the Baja HaHa with us, but we had never met before. We had a great chat.

Roland van Rijn, who owns the Valiant 50 Engelenbak (as seen on our web site - http://raptordance.us/valiant1.htm - that's the boat we sailed on back in 1999 on Lake Texoma). He's from Ohio, and friend Laura Gongos took the ferry from Vancouver to Victoria to get together with us.

In Canoe Cove, we stayed in the slip normally occupied by Coyote Moon, Valiant 40 179, owned by Jim and Marilyn Ming - who are off on a 6 week circumnavigation of Vancouver Island.

British Columbia place names are really interesting. Most of them are from the original inhabitants - called the "First Nation" up here. It seems that BC got all the vowels - unlike the Welsh, who don't have any. I'm sure that Vanna White could establish a vowel mine up here to gather the raw materials for the Wheel of Fortune.

After all our wanderings Raptor Dance went back in the water, last Friday the 17th. We stayed in Canoe Cove for two more nights to get things shipshape before setting off for a night in Friday Harbor then over to Bellingham, WA where we are now.

I highly recommend the gang at Canoe Cove http://www.canoecovemarina.com/ and Black Line Marine http://www.blacklinemarine.com/ for work that you may need done to your boat (if you have one). They do great work. We had our bottom done, bow thruster cleaned, a new through hull put in, rig work done, our bi-annual survey performed all done - very high quality.

When in Friday Harbor, we had dinner and visited with a friend from high school - Candy Lowry (now Candy Bowers), who just happened to be living locally. She saw a reference to our website, noted we were in Sidney and sent us a note. We had a great time after a short break of 39 years!

The runs between Sidney, Friday Harbor and Bellingham highlighted the difference between cruising in Mexico and up here in the Northwest. When we left Canoe Cove, Mary was up on the bow as we threaded our way out of the marina - seeing the bottom shallows with Sea Anemones on the shallow rocky bottom on our right and left (but, thankfully not in the deeper water in front of us).

The voyage to Friday Harbor (where the spell it Harbor and not Harbour) only took 3 hours with the current at near slack. Today, we had current pushing our normal 7 knot speed to almost 10 at some points and down to 4 at other times. It took us 4 hours to go the 26 miles to Bellingham from Friday Harbor.

Anyway, this message is getting pretty long and Mary say's "enough already". So

I'm going to sign off for now.

Warmest Regards to all,
Bill and Mary

June 8, 2005

Canoe Cove - Sidney, Vancouver Island

On Saturday, June 4th, 2005, we departed Coal Harbour Marina at 10:00 AM for our passage over to Vancouver Island. We arrived in Canoe Cove at 6:15 PM. Our position report page on http://raptordance.com/ shows our new position.

After stopping at the ESSO fuel barge, we passed under the Lion’s Gate bridge at First Narrows at 11:00AM, with a 1 Knot Ebb helping us along.

Fuel is way more expensive than in Mexico and a just a bit higher than the US. We paid $ 0.91 CAN/Liter – $ 2.75 US/Gal.

The tides and currents here in the North West are something to be reckoned with. With a tidal range of 20+ feet in many places, the current can really get moving. In narrow passes, it can actual cause rapids. Good scheduling is vital to make sure you hit the tricky spots at slack water – between the tidal ebbs and floods.

We had to contend with two challenging passes: First Narrows, the Vancouver Harbour entrance and Active Pass, an entrance into the Gulf Islands from The Straights of Georgia. The Straights of Georgia can also be a challenge as it’s a major shipping channel and winds that funnel in much faster than the surrounding areas.

Our departure was timed to hit just before slack water at both passes. As it was, we were fine at both.

First Narrows was clear with no shipping traffic coming or going when we went through. All the Major ocean going vessels coming and going to Vancouver transit this very narrow harbor entrance.

Active pass is Z shaped and when the currents flow major whirlpools, rips and eddies form. It’s also used by the very large BC Ferry boats and when the currents are high, they skid around the corners. At the narrowest, Active pass is only 0.2 nm wide and you don’t want to meet a ferry during your transit.

Up here, the best way to avoid the big traffic is to listen to the Marine VHF Vessel Traffic Service. Vancouver Traffic is on VHF 12 and the Straights of Georgia and the Gulf Island Area is Victoria Traffic on VHF 11. By monitoring those channels you can hear when the cargo ships, ferries and other large vessels are transiting the passes.

As it was, two ferries passed through Active Pass right before us and we were able to adjust our passage time to let them through first. We came through Active Pass safely just before slack water and then proceeded down to Canoe Cove, here on Vancouver Island. The Pass was actually very beautiful, with homes nestled in the hills.

The Marina here is very rustic and scenic. The only downside is all the boat houses! It makes half the marina look like a storage facility. Surprisingly, people actually come down and spend time on their boat in the boat house. It seems to us like living in your RV in your garage!

Naturally, with all this lovely moisture, the landscape is very green. As we sat in the pub’s dining room last evening, overlooking the garden, we noticed how the plants were the same we have in Santa Rosa. The bad part of that is Bill’s allergies really flare up in Santa Rosa at this time of year. And so they are the same here too. Hopefully it will be better as we go north. And there will need to be “pre medication” for Bill when we go to Butchart Gardens.

Sunday we rented a car and drove around the Sidney area. It’s quite lovely with lots of little shops, bookstores (didn’t see many of those in Mexico!), coffee houses and cafes. Sidney has a lot of retirees, there are many senior living facilities around town and stores that cater to their needs. Many restaurants advertise “early bird specials” for seniors. To be a senior here, though, you need to be 65 – none of this wimpy US, you’re a senior if over 50 stuff

We had Raptor Dance hauled out on Monday to get our bottom re-painted and accomplish some other tasks. It’s always nerve racking to see our floating home up on a Travel Lift moving across the parking lot! Also, this Travel Lift was smaller than the last one, but still ample to hold Raptor Dance’s 37,000 pounds – it’s capacity is 60,000 pounds. So we had to pull the Clevis Pins at the bottom of the Genoa and Staysail roller furlers to get the head stays clear of the Travel Lift’s cross beam. All went well and Raptor Dance is now safely on stands in boat yard.

Our prior bottom paint, Petit Trinidad SR, was applied last July and it just didn’t do a good job in Mexico. We’ve heard that nothing really does – except the old Tin based paints that are now illegal since their so toxic they kill stuff on the bottom of the bay and not just the bottom of the boat!

We’re switching to a paint formulated for up here – an ablative paint, Petit Horizon – that wears away as your moving, exposing new copper (that’s the biocide in the paint) and takes the marine growth with it.

Also on Monday we checked into the B&B. We’re staying at the Amity Guest Retreat, just South of Sidney. It’s a very lovely place, run by a friendly couple: Shirley and Ken Moncur, see: http://www.guestretreatbb.com/ The bad news: they have two cats! The good news: the guest rooms are separate from the main area and the cats don’t get to the rooms. The good news: they have Internet, the bad news: their computer/office with the connection is the cat’s room! So, It’s Allegra time! Actually, I have to take it anyway due to the other pollen – so no problem.

Another great place for connectivity is the Rum Runner Pub http://www.emenus.ca/rumrunner/info.htm on the waterfront in Sidney. Free Internet and good beer!

That’s the news as of Tuesday, June 7th

In our next report, we’ll fill you in on what we’re finding regarding the wineries here on Vancouver Island, plus a report on Butchart Gardens http://www.butchartgardens.com/ and the Victoria Butterfly Gardens http://www.butterflygardens.com/

Warmest Regards,
Bill and Mary

June 2, 2005


It’s been a busy few weeks – But I’ve updated and simplified the look and feel of our Website - http://raptordance.com/, posted our latest pictures and updated our log http://raptordance.blogspot.com/. You can also see our index of past log postings at http://raptordance.us/TOC.html.

We’re now in Vancouver, safe and sound. We’re back on board Raptor Dance in Slip C18 in Coal Harbour Marina in Vancouver. See: http://www.findu.com/cgi-bin/find.cgi?call=WB6JAO&units=nautical (our current position) and http://www.coalharbourmarina.com/.

We’re planning on being here until Saturday, before we head over to Sidney on Vancouver Island.

After loading onto Dockwise and saying good bye to Mexico, we flew back to the States on Aero California. Stopped in Los Angeles to visit the family and then flew back to the SF Bay area on South West.

A very busy week ensued as we made arrangements for our haul out in Canada to work on Raptor Dance’s bottom (new paint, an additional through hull and strainer, bow thruster cleaning and misc. other chores).

We’ll be hauled out in Sidney at Canoe Cove on Vancouver Island see: http://www.canoecovemarina.com/ and a lot of the work will be done by Black Line Marine: http://www.blacklinemarine.com/ . These folks come highly recommended.

While we’re out of the water, From June 6th to June 17th, we’ll rent a car and explore Vancouver Island, Victoria and environs. We’re planning to stay in a number of B&Bs during our trip and will report on what we find.

We flew up to Vancouver on Sunday the 29th and unloaded from Dockwise on Monday. We’ve posted pictures of the loading and unloading process on our website http://raptordance.com/.

Interestingly, unloading took longer than loading as Dockwise had us inspect Raptor Dance for any problems before they flooded the boat. Once the boats were floating, divers had to remove the remaining stands so we could exit. Also, about half a dozen boats were continuing on Dockwise up to their next stop in Alaska and some of them had to be towed out to make room for us to exit. On the following day, another group of boats was scheduled to be loaded, some headed as far as Port Everglades in Florida. Stops after Vancouver for DE 12 include: Alaska, Lazaro Cardenas (Mexico), Gulfito (Costa Rica) and Port Everglades, FL.

After we finally unloaded, we headed over to the marina (only about 30 minutes away), docked, checked in and cleaned up the boat.

We also called Canadian Customs to make sure our check-in was in order. The Dockwise agent arranged for a CANPASS for us. This lets us check in and out of Canada by phone (with a Customs official visit only occasionally at their option). A short phone call was all it took.
Tuesday and Wednesday we spent sight seeing, going to China Town, the Aquarium, The Granville Island Market and generally playing tourist. Vancouver is a wonderful city – with lots to do and see. Lot’s of good food too! It’s generally priced around the same as the US, with some things higher and a few lower. We did buy 1 pound of Morel mushrooms at the Granville Market for $12 CAN! (at $0.80 US per $ 1.00 CAN that’s less than $10 US!).

Today we’re caching up on chores, updating the web and generally doing boat chores for our departure on Saturday for Sidney. We also have route planning, weather checking and orienting to do.

That’s the update from Raptor Dance.

Warmest Regards,
Bill and Mary