Friday, March 18, 2011

On the Hard in Ballard

We are hauled and up on the hard here in historic Ballard. Very convenient; I am pleased to report that the local brewed IPA is available a mere two blocks from the yard. Not to mention The Quilting Loft, Sam's Sushi and a host of other great shops and places nearby. More restaurants than one could possibly explore in a couple of weeks. But it's worth a try!

Our under the waterline inspection showed that we had damaged a winglet. These are the lateral extensions on the stabilizers. Our port side winglet was damaged - on the inside, and above the keel line. We must have been travelling at quite a few knots to have caused the damage so I guess that it was a submerged log or deadhead. We are having ABT send us a new one to replace the damaged part so that sets us back a little on the likely splash date.
There is a lot of work going on ....

But she is still home...............

The first week of maintenance has covered quite a range of items. The EPIRB has been tested; life raft taken for a service, fire extinguishers recertified; windlass checked over; propane system repaired; the bottom and all undersea fittings (props and keel coolers) have been painted and zincs renewed throughout, along with servicing the stabilizers.The dinghy was sent off for an outboard service; the new Porta-Bote has been assembled and new Honda 2HP delivered, along with a couple of kayaks. Work is continuing resealing the starboard hand and rub rails since it is believed that rain water seepage is the source of the leaks around the starboard fuel tank. And the leak into the overhead from the pilothouse head looks like it was a hose poorly bent round some chinese woodwork (actually you could probably re-arrange those words and get the right effect!).

Friday, March 11, 2011

Puget Sound, Mega Depot & Scorpions

Hi All

We were very lucky with the weather window for our trip to Seattle. In the previous week the weather was so bad that there were hurricane force winds off Vancouver Island and, most unusually, the BC ferries were shut down for the day. And now we are here the weather has been, in a word, horrible. But for our trip we had mirror-calm seas over to Friday Harbor and then the same down to Seattle. We ran through the Coastguard Checklist in case we were boarded and inspected – it being a slow Monday and a foreign-flagged vessel just entered is a prime inspection target. Surprise, surprise a Coastguard rib came up alongside for questions. Later yet another CG boat came up and radioed us – but it was all ok, they were all just watching all traffic carefully because there was a massive naval exercise involving the escort of a submarine out of Puget Sound; we counted at least seven escort vessels.

Pictures: Last Mango in her winter home; next picture – two vessels in sight or one? Yes – one – although they are a third of a mile apart it is a tug with a tow. Look out! Lastly – the sub with escorts.

Last Mango

One vessel - typical "Tug with a Tow"

Submarine with her escorts

Border crossings, aren’t they something? My technique is to be as helpful as possible, after all the officials are only doing their job. One needs to be patient, and never be in hurry. Well, our trip from Canadian to US waters was a revelation. The plan was to tie up at the Customs Dock in Sidney, BC by midday and clear out of Canada. I picked up the courtesy phone and gave vessel details and crew when I was quickly informed “That’s all right sir, you are free to go. There is no check-out procedure for Canada”! Hmmm, no check out procedure! I am liking Canada more and more……….. So we untied and headed for Friday Harbor, where we tied up at the Customs Dock and picked up the courtesy phone. Well, it only took the announcement of the BVI registration and two aliens aboard before we were summoned to the office for a one-hour form filling session. We were fortunate to see that Officer Tarantino was on duty, and he remembered checking us out of the US in June last year. BUT - we learned something pretty important! You cannot enter the US on a private yacht under the visa waiver program – news to me! in other words “Where are your visas?”. Er……….this is one of those moments when you keep smiling but you can feel the rug starting to move under your feet…………..but suddenly we remembered that we transited via Houston the previous Wednesday and were stamped into the US for 90 days from 2 March– Phew! – that worked (planned it that way? No!). Anyway, we made it. After getting our Clearance Statement I was expecting the Cruising License and was asking to confirm the Reporting Procedure (whenever you move your boat from anywhere to anywhere) but there was another surprise for us. Because we are sailing in one administrative region, we neither need a cruising license nor need to phone in when we change location. Well, all very curious. And the visa waiver issue needs to be fed to the head of logistics (me) to factor in to our plans for 2011. Like entering Alaska, re-entering the US, travelling to California later in the year for outline plans. Oh well, it will get figured out. And, more than likely, another border crossing experience will change the rules yet again!

It has been a busy couple of weeks or so. Panama, Canada, US………worlds of contrast. Just ten days ago in Panama we took Susie’s granddaughter to visit one of the Indian villages on the Chagres River. It goes like this. We go to Mega Depot and buy a sack of rice and other foodstuffs, we never like to go empty handed. Then we drive for an hour or so along a steadily deteriorating road until we get to the river and the road ends. I then call our friend Melio on his cell phone; he is the Under Chief of the settlement and he sends his nephew up the river in a dug-out to pick us up. We always enjoy our visits there and every time we go we get to know these gentle folk a little better. As I say, life is a world of contrasts. Pictures below – Melio; and two pictures from Punta Culebra - sloth and baby sloth; and a raccoon who might have misjudged his scavenging, I think he is saying “ouch”!


Opportunist Raccoon!

Sleeping Sloths
So here we are in Seattle for our scheduled maintenance. I laid these plans four months ago but actually there was a glitch with our booking. But I am hoping that everything comes up to expectations. We are going to be here for two or three weeks. Let’s see how we go. We came through the Lake Washington Ship Canal to Seaview Boatyard, Salmon Bay, hauled out and are up on the hard. This is a new on-board living experience for the Admiral and I here in historic Ballard; a great place to be for all things boats, we are where many of the Deadliest Catch fleet base their maintenance. And we have been fortunate indeed to be safe from the after effects of the devastating tsunami in Japan this morning. And we are resting somewhat, we have both been struck by a Seattle weather-induced chill so there is a quiet weekend ahead.

Final picture is a sting in the tail! We were down on the Azuero Peninsula and had a wonderful four days there. On the morning we left I picked up my roll-aboard and put it on the bed. Packed it. Lifted it up and put it by the door ready to go………….and…………I had a hitchhiker lurking on my case. See below. This is about actual size. Life has its exciting moments.

Best wishes

And always check your shoes!

David and Susie
Sting in the tale!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Friends, Pine Needles & Gabriola Pass

Hi All

The last couple of months in Panama have been so busy with family and friends visiting. Panama is a very popular destination and we have had a continual stream of friends coming either for a vacation or checking out second home suitability or retirement location. Susie’s granddaughter Ellie also came with Spenser and his girlfriend and we packed as much as we could into their stay. We also had cruiser visitors, both of whom have Nordhavn 55s – no coincidence there then! Anyway we left Panama on Wednesday and now we are back on board Last Mango!

Kevin and Robert had done a wonderful job of looking after Last Mango over the past four months and she was in great shape. I had written a brief for them and also a customized walk through check-list to try and anticipate any problems. To winterize the boat we had run down our diesel, gasoline(dinghy) and water tanks in the first instance. I paralleled all the batteries (thrusters, main and wing starters, and the house bank) so that all batteries would charge together otherwise the starter and thruster batteries would probably discharge. Charging would be by the inverter in the first instance, the 100A Victron as back up, followed by the Mastervolt charger in the last resort. On board we were running two dehumidifiers (on a timer), a couple of small space heaters, and just one small chest freezer; everything else was turned off. The sea water here is unlikely to freeze so it is rather like leaving your boat in a cold bath; the sea water will actually keep the boat slightly warmer than the air temperature (usually only just above freezing here in the winter) and so freezing inside is unlikely. The main danger is that there is a undetected power outage and a loss of shore power which will cause a battery run-down; fortunately we had no such issues. The other problem is usually dampness; but inside everything remained remarkably dry with no condensation. However there are three small but persistent leaks of water into the engine room and lazarette; probably rain water from a leaking deck drain. Trying to find and fix these is on the maintenance list.

It has taken us a couple of days to get everything organized and checked over. Yesterday we cleared up four months of pine needles and used nearly a gallon of SuperClean washing the boat. We had the usual distractions of (a) a pair of eagles (b) the odd seal (c) the kingfisher (d) the otters, who clearly have regarded our swim step as their territory over the winter and were curious as to who we were. Today we went out for a sea trial; it was a stunningly beautiful day with no wind and we ran Gabriola Pass at slack and then back nearly an hour later. It was a new moon yesterday and in the pass the current was already strong; today it increased from slack to 5.4 knots in only two and a half hours.

And now the adventure begins, well, at least the planning and preparation for the adventure begins. The weather tomorrow and Monday is looking good so we are heading for Seattle and our scheduled maintenance and haul out. The plan tomorrow is a four hour passage to Sidney to clear out of Canada Customs and Immigration and then a crossing to the San Juans and clearing into the US at either Roche or Friday Harbor. If the weather holds then on Monday we will have a nine or ten hour passage to Seattle, the timing looks good from a tidal point of view and we should have the tide with us through Admiralty Inlet and Puget Sound. We need to migrate our internet and phone from Rogers to AT&T and also to move back onto the US boat notification system. Back in November I booked us into Emerald Harbor Marine to Hatton Marine for our scheduled maintenance visit; we probably will spend at least a couple of weeks  getting through the list of jobs. Engine, generator, wing engine, water maker, windlass, stabilizers, hydraulics, propane sensor system, life raft, and much more …………… at the start of the cruising season and particularly before heading to Alaska it is going to be important to be in the best shape possible. And there is some new kit in the mix too.

If you would like to follow our trip live while we are under way, you should be able to find Last Mango on We are on Pacific Time. The short term program is: Seattle for maintenance and things (maybe even a visit to the microbrewery………..); spending some time in Washington working our way North from Seattle to Anacortes for fuel and quilting supplies(yes!); the essential stop in Gabriola for R&R; picking up VIP passengers in Vancouver 9 April; heading North towards Alaska on 10 April.

Best wishes

David and Susie
Nordhavn 5508 “Last Mango”