Bob Hale’s Cruising ReportsFeaturedWaggoner eNews

Reid Harbor, San Juan Islands, July 18 Earlier reports have tended to follow the calendar in what I call a “First we went here and then we went there and gee wasn’t it fun” storyline. The calendar approach certainly has its place. I recently finished Mark Twain’s Innocents Abroad, Vols. I & II, in which Twain follows the calendar closely. The writer Mark Twain, of course, could do anything, and did. He was beyond brilliant.

For this report I plan to cover a list of things in no particular order, or at least not connected with the calendar. We’ll see how it works.

The Johnson 4-horsepower outboard saga. To put it succinctly, the repair at Mardeira Park didn’t work. The motor ran for a few minutes, then died and stayed dead. To get around, we rowed or struggled to load the 65-pound 8-horse Yamaha on the dinghy. The Yamaha ran perfectly, started with one or two pulls, and idled down to nothing. Wonderful motor, except for putting it on and off the dinghy. I’m not getting stronger and it’s getting heavier. But we managed.

The Johnson went back in the shop a few weeks later and the mechanic took the head off. Maybe it was a bad head gasket. Repaired, the Johnson ran fine in the shop and I was encouraged. We took it back to the boat, mounted it, started it and ran it for a few minutes—and it died.

At last an unexplored possibility presented itself. When I pumped fuel from the remote tank to the motor, a little fuel leaked from the fitting at the motor end. One thing we never suspected was the possibility that a fitting that leaked fuel out could suck air in. The shop had never tested the fuel line because the tank has a Mercury/Mariner fitting, and we have separate fuel hoses for the Johnson, the Yamaha, and a 15-horse Mariner we haven’t used in years (15-horse 2-stroke Mariner for sale, approximately 10 hours, serviced annually).

A few days later the impossibly well-stocked Harbour Chandler marine supply in Nanaimo provided a replacement fuel fitting and hose clamp, I think it came to $11. I cut the old fitting off, twisted the new fitting in, tightened the hose clamp and hooked it up. The new fitting didn’t leak. When I squeezed the bulb it went firm when the carburetor was filled. The old fitting didn’t feel like that. I gave a mighty pull on the starter cord: nothing. Another pull: the motor started! And it kept running! We had over $200 invested in failed fixes, and the problem all along was a $10 fitting. I can’t blame the mechanic. He never had a chance to use the defective hose. And he was right. The problem was fuel. Only it wasn’t bad fuel, it was no fuel, all because the fitting had failed.

The darling little Johnson is back in service. I’m so happy.

Twist and Shout, the British Invasion. That’s the title of the Chemainus Theatre Festival’s summer production, and it’s terrific. The show is a recreation of the music era of 1964-67, when the Beatles exploded on the scene. When the curtain goes up, it’s the Beatles, and for the next two and one-half hours the show owns the audience. We laughed, clapped, sang along and dredged distant memories as we watched not just the Beatles, but the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Searchers, the Dave Clark Five, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, Donavon, Gerry and the Pacemakers, Spencer Davis Group, The Hollies, Petula Clark, and a bunch more acts suddenly appear onstage and mesmerize us. The singing was outstanding, the dancing and sight-gags seemingly effortless yet exact, the costumes sensuous, and the pacing flawless. If you see it, “They call me Mellow Yellow” will have new meaning.

I called for tickets a day ahead, and was told they were sold out. I whined. I said we didn’t need to sit together, that after weeks on the boat, separate was fine. The ticket lady studied her schedule and said she had a center section seat in Row C and another center section seat in row H. Sold! The show runs until August 29. Call ahead for tickets. Call ahead too, for moorage, because it fills up. The irrepressible Harmen Bootsma remains the harbor manager. His number is (250) 246-4655.

Mill Bay Marina. We’d been hearing that the newly-rebuilt Mill Bay Marina on the west side of Saanich Inlet was something we should see, so we made reservations and motored over.

The reports were correct. New ownership has replaced the marina’s former tired old wooden docks with wide and stable concrete docks, 30 and 50 amp power, water (no boat washing this summer, of course), and big, strong cleats for tying off. The docks are held in place by immovable 36-inch-diameter steel pilings, the most substantial marina construction we’ve ever seen. If you’re looking for a place to moor your aircraft carrier, consider Mill Bay.

Mill Bay dock

Mill Bay dock

The marina staff was courteous, and couldn’t have been more helpful. Although we didn’t try the restaurant, it was full of contented-looking customers.

We did buy a few groceries at a huge Thrifty market in the nearby shopping center, where a weeks-long scarecrow competition was wrapping up. No old coats, old hats and straw, these scarecrows. They were elaborately dressed and painted to represent important, if often overlooked, characters in Canadian history. One of them was dressed as a housepainter. The explanatory sheet said he was the man who invented the paint roller, around 1940. He didn’t patent his development, though, and died destitute. Nearly every business in the Center had an imaginative scarecrow at its front door. Vote for your favorite.

Mill Bay scarecrows

Mill Bay scarecrows

Bad luck and good luck at Montague Harbour. Montague Harbour is probably our favorite anchorage in the Gulf Islands. No matter how many boats are there, we always find room to swing. The Grey Peninsula provincial park is an excellent march through the woods, and we walked around the peninsula near the bottom of a very low tide this year. With the tide low, I could take pictures of the layers of sandstone tilted on edge, reaching from the northwest side of the peninsula. Clumsy and uncertain as I’m getting to be, around on the harbor side I was able to step across he lagoon’s outlet stream without getting my shoes wet. I took a picture of Marilynn making the same crossing, only more gracefully.

Marilynn explores in Montague Harbour.

Marilynn explores in Montague Harbour.

Montague Harbour sandstone

Montague Harbour sandstone

New owners have transformed the Montague Harbour Marina. The docks are in good shape, the staff is friendly and helpful, and the store carries just the kinds of stock boaters need, including bakery goods, limited fresh produce, cheeses and frozen meats, cruising guides, vacation reading, logo shirts—and ice cream cones (Marilynn can’t pass up a hand-dipped ice cream cone).

When we dinghied back to the boat we found a paper taped to the swim step. Boating friends Dick and Donna Yellam, 33 Bayliner Happy Wanderer, had just anchored, and were planning to ride the Pub Bus to the Hummingbird Pub for supper. Did we wish to join? Darn right. We dinghied in together, tied the dinghies at the public dock, and walked up the road to the Pub Bus stop. Soon it came, a big, yellow former school bus, with loud music blaring. As we boarded, the driver handed out noisemakers to rattle to the beat of the music. Up to the Hummingbird and back, it’s a ride that stays in the memory. The dinner was good, too.

With two under counter refrigerator-freezers in the galley and a small Norcold freezer in the cockpit our boat eats electricity, even more in hot weather, and it had been plenty hot. By the time we got back to the boat the batteries were in need of charge. We started the generator, which purred along for a while, then suddenly shut down. The temperature gauge read a little over 200 degrees F. We had a problem.

I unloaded the lazarette, crawled in, and put a flashlight on the sea strainer: solid weed. I closed the sea cock, removed the sea strainer lid, cleaned out the weed, reassembled, opened the sea cock and started the generator. If everything was clear, incoming cooling water should bubble lustily in the strainer. It didn’t. Marilynn said the needle in the temperature gauge was rising. Shut down the generator. What to do? The batteries needed charging. Darkness was approaching. Two refrigerators and a freezer were munching on electricity.

Hoping for a place at the marina dock, we brought up the anchor and headed in. Wonder of wonders, we found an open space, with a shore power pedestal close by. We tied up, hooked up, and went to bed. We paid moorage the next morning. A local diver advertised on the bulletin board and I wrote down the number.

Before calling the diver, however, I called our ace mechanic, John Flaherty, back home. He had cleared a similar stoppage a few years ago, and I needed his counsel. Patiently, he described the hoses to be disconnected and how to dig out or blow out any obstructions. It didn’t sound like fun.

As we reviewed our options, a tall, friendly man from a neighboring boat came over, listened to our tale, and said he had a short wet suit, mask, fins and snorkel, and perhaps he could take a look. Of course we said we couldn’t impose, but he insisted. His wife, Lynn, said he really enjoys a chance to use his diving gear and it wasn’t an imposition.

We learned his name: Seth Schrade, from Olympia, Washington, chartered 3288 Bayliner. Our generator water intake is not screened on the outside of the hull. It’s just a 1-inch hole. I gave Seth a big screwdriver to poke around with. He found weed, but needed to reach higher. A straightened wire coat hanger? Boy, did I get a coat hanger, and it already had a hook in the end.

Montague Harbour volunteer diver Seth Schade.

Montague Harbour volunteer diver Seth Schade.

Seth went back under and returned with a huge, nearly solid glop of weed. He dove again but the coat hanger came up empty. The obstruction appeared to be removed.

Weeds removed from the generator raw water intake.

Weeds removed from the generator raw water intake.

Back aboard, I handed Seth a chunk of U.S. money by way of thanks. Absolutely not, he said. This is what we do for each other. His reward was helping someone out of a jam.

This has been our philosophy, too. We’ve towed people in, we’ve guided a couple lost in fog to their marina, and we’ve refused payment of any kind. Pay ahead. Help the next person.

Seth did accept one small favor. He was soaked with saltwater and the marina doesn’t have showers. The 32 Bayliner doesn’t have a separate shower, but our 37 Tolly does. We offered a shower and he said yes.

Now the question: Had the overheating damaged the pump impeller? John Flaherty replaces the impellers each year. I’ve never had a pump apart—didn’t even know for sure where to find it. Back on the phone to John. Patiently, as always, he told me how to remove the starboard panel of the generator’s sound shield and how to take the cap off the pump (it’s obvious). With Marilynn as my tool-gofer I crawled in, removed the panel, and the cap on the pump. The impeller was perfect. At least some water had gotten through. We started the generator. Incoming water swirled and bubble in the sea strainer. We’ve been fine since.

The bad luck was the intake blockage. The good luck was the offer by someone we’d never met to dive down and help, and the opportunity to make his acquaintance. Thank you, Seth Schrade, you’re a hell of a guy. And thank you, John Flaherty, for being there for us once again.

Bob Hale

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