August 26, 2005

Port McNeill, Johnstone Straights and Points South

Hello Everyone!

We posted pictures, yesterday on our website of our August adventures. Be sure to check them out at

When we last emailed, we were anchored out at Dickson Island on Saturday Morning, Aug 20th. We left that morning in Fog and overcast and headed over to Port McNeill.

Mary was planning to fish, but we had to cancel that side excursion when the autopilot insisted on steering the boat in starboard (right hand) circles. With the fog and no auto pilot, there were enough hands on board to steer, watch for logs (there were lot's!), fish and land the fish if we caught any.

So, with "Car Talk" and "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" on Sirius Satellite radio - we hand steered the four hours over to Port McNeill.

After tying up in the Marina - we delved into the depths of the transom to figure out what was wrong with the autopilot. To get to it, we had to empty the lazerette, then take out the port propane locker. A quick look showed that the autopilot ram was fully extended with the wheel not even centered, but to starboard (right). Hmmm, out also came the starboard propane locker.

This one is more troublesome to remove as it's the locker with the active propane bottle. So we not only have to remove the vent/drain hose from the bottom of the locker, but also disconnect the propane solanoid wiring, and clip the tie wraps retaining the coiled propane hose that's extra length so we can remove the locker without totally disassembling the propane line.

Finally, with both lockers out, I could get below the rudder quadrant to the autopilot drive arm to fine the set screw and bolts holding in position had loosened and the arm had shifted from position.

First we tried centering and tightening the bolts. No, that wouldn't work. The whole drive arm assembly had slipped down on the rudder shaft and now the autopilot ram was abrading the stern through hull hoses (not good).

So, loosening the whole shebang, raising it on the rudder shaft and re-tightening was necessary. Done, now the test. Yes!!! The autopilot now could move freely! Task done (or so I thought).

Since we rarely have both propane lockers out, I took care of some other chores while in the transom area.

Our Seafrost refrigeration unit's "sight glass" is only accessible with the lockers out. So, I gave it a look. Hmmm, foam going by! That indicates an incomplete charge of R-22 refrigerant, we must have a slow leak (we had the service fellow, recharge a bit of R-22 in it before we left Alameda last September after 4 years - so it's a real slow leak).

The only repair person in Port McNeill doesn't have equipment for R-22 (one of the "sort of green" Freon replacement refrigerants). We have a "cruising kit" with the fittings and two cans of R-22 to use to recharge the unit when out on a cruise - but no instructions!.

Fortunately, Port McNeill has cell phone coverage and double fortunately, our service fellow back in the bay area answered his cell phone on a Saturday and talked us through the process of adding the gas to our unit. Two successes!

I also added an interference filter to our Marine SSB antenna tuner (also in the transom and only accessible with both propane lockers out), this was a project that I've had on the back burner waiting to do when I was in the transom. Without this filter, the transmitted signal from the Marine SSB gets into some of the boat systems and causes them to act up (e.g. the Autopilot does "S" turns, or "Snake Wake" as it's called). The filter is supposed to keep the transmit power going out the antenna and not running around the boat. We'll see how it works...

Buttoning everything up, that killed our Saturday.

Sunday, we had a great visit over to Alert Bay where we visited the U'Mista cultural museum and walked around town. See our website for the pictures.

Monday, we did laundry and other chores.

Tuesday, we did shopping and got ready to leave at the crack of dawn on Wednesday. Doing last minute boat checkouts, a strange noise was coming from the rudder assembly when turned from stop to stop. Oh boy, back into the lazerette and out came the port propane locker. Hmmm, the rudder cable seems a bit loose and the ends are "snapping" on the autopilot drive arm. tightened them up and buttoned up the locker and lazerette.

Wednesday, we left Port McNeill in overcast cold conditions at 6:15. Sunrise was at 6:30. We caught favorable currents until we were past Telegraph Cove and into Johnstone Straights. With virtually no wind, the sometimes fearsome Johnstone Straights were a piece of cake. We also had Neap Tide currents, so things were not bad in the current category either.

Plan A was to anchor at Forward Harbour. Conditions were so benign however that we continued the extra 20 miles onto Blind Channel where we spent the night.

On our trip down, we went from long underwear weather in overcast and cold conditions to warm, shorts weather in only 60 miles. We also saw multiple pods of Orcas - one male with an enormous doral fin, pods of dolphins and Minke Whales (we think, we need to get a whale book for positive ID).

The autopilot wasn't happy during the passage - so, at Blind Channel, into the transom/propane locker for the third time. I had over tightened the rudder cables. Ahhh Perfection!

While working away, we changed the engine oil and filter as it was due.

Thursday, we updated our website with pictures, fueled up, then motored over to Oleo's.

Today, Friday, we spent the day with Paul fishing for Salmon. Skunked again.

Tomorrow, we'll be heading back through the Dent and Yuculta Rapids, heading back to the Desolation Sound area.

That's the latest from Raptor Dance!

Warmest Regards,
Bill and Mary

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