Sun and Fun – Cruising the Pacific NW – June 2023

Table of Contents

Greetings all!

I’ll apologize in advance for a lack of blog entries this season. I always say that blog entries are a bit of a competition between us (Roberta, the pups and me), and you, the readers. When things are going well on the boat, there is nothing to say. Blog entries are the most exciting when some huge danger is lurking, the boat almost sinks, and then we miraculously survive. And they are the most boring when the sun is shining, the water is flat, and nothing breaks. Going somewhere interesting can add a bit of spice to a blog entry, but we’re not even doing that. Roberta and I are having a wonderful time cruising well-known waters in the Pacific Northwest, on a wonderful and solid boat that is running just fine. We win, readers lose. Oh well… The season is not over, and on a boat, one can never get too comfortable. There will always be surprises.

Cruise Map

We’ve had a busy June! Approx 400 miles of cruising, and about half of the time spent at anchor

Random Pics

Dinner at Doc Martins, at Snug Cove, near Vancouver. The best part of this picture is that the restaurant is extremely dog friendly! The two dogs are on chairs, Keeley between us wrapped with her snuggle rug, and pixie in her dog purse. After being assigned a slip I looked at a diagram of the marina and didn’t like the assignment. I radioed the marina, “Will I be able to turn around when it comes time to depart?” The girl on the radio responded, “I have a hammerhead if you’d prefer it” (her word for what I call an end cap). “Most definitely!” I answered. Later, I looked at where I was initially assigned. I may have gotten there ok, but I’d never have gotten back out. Thank goodness I asked.
Roberta walking the pups at Roche Harbor, our home port, on San Juan Island, Washington
As much as we like dining on the boat, it’s always nice to find a good restaurant. This picture is from our dinner at the excellent Laughing Oyster restaurant, at the Okeover Public Docks, near Lund. You can see Cygnus sitting at the docks in the picture above.
Taking the pooches (this is Pixie) for a ride in the tender. The orange strap you see is meant to be a towing bridle. On our prior boat we towed the tender all of the time. This boat is not well configured to tow. I need to figure that out. There will be more on that topic in my next blog entry.
Speaking of Pixie, whose full name is “Pixel”, this is a particularly upsetting picture. We were on the flybridge for a few minutes, to launch the tender. We left the critters inside while we worked, and when we returned we discovered that Pixie had chewed apart a plastic ink pen Roberta had been using to write. The picture above is result of an hour of attempting to clean up the mess using rubbing alcohol. As bad as it looks, it looked much worse before. We have already ordered new material from the original interior designer for the boat and will be reupholstering that cushion. Argh. Pixie is now eighteen months old and still in her puppy phase. It could have been much worse had she swallowed any of the ink or plastic shards. Luckily she’s fine, although we did give her a good talking-to. As a side-note, she is getting better, but has chewed enough things that we use her name as a verb. When we see something chewed up, we refer to it as having been pixelated

Roberta and I have been working non-stop for two years on a videogame. This video is from the early 80s and showcases a young Roberta talking about the original text game that inspired us to make a modern game. It’s available for virtually any device that can be used to play a game (PCs, Macs, PS4, PS5, Quest 2VR, SteamVr, PSVR2, iphone, iPad, Xbox One, Xbox X|S, and more!)  Check it out!

BLACK WATER

Few topics inspire more passion amongst boaters than dealing with the black water system. If you don’t know what black water is, be happy. On a boat, water comes in three “flavors”: Fresh water (that we drink), Grey water (dish water, water from the sinks, water from the shower), and Black Water (the water from the toilets, as well as anything that goes into a toilet). No one wants Black Water dumped into a marina or a beautiful bay. Any boat with a toilet must have a Black Water tank and either get it pumped out at a marina or wait until they are several miles offshore to dump it into the ocean. 

Our home marina, Roche Harbor in the San Juan Islands, has a VERY convenient pump out boat. It is a free and very convenient service. The pump out boat comes to your slip and minutes later the tank is empty. I always tip the kids that do the pump out, especially after an incident a few years back. I had the valves set wrong and no matter how hard the kid tried to suction the Black Water, nothing was coming out. I realized the valves were set wrong and went below to flip the valve. As I did, I heard screaming from outside the boat. The huge suction built up when the valve was closed, combined with the sudden rush of Black Water from the valve being opened, had an explosive result. Exiting the boat, I could immediately see that the poor kid was completely coated with “Black Water.” That incident was several years ago, but I’ve never forgotten it, and I’d bet that neither has he. Since that time, I’ve overtipped the pump out kids knowing that they have a truly crappy job that can get much worse at any time.

Anyway, when cruising and anchoring, there comes a time when the tank is full and heading for deep water to dump is the only option. We did that and pressed the magic button to expel the Black Water overboard.

Nothing happened. The gauge that shows the tank level went down as if we were pumping just fine, but then popped back to where it had been. Hmmm…. Was there a valve set wrong? Cygnus (our boat) has two pumps, so that if one should ever fail, I can flip to the other. I checked all the plumbing and everything was right. I tried both pumps. I thought about another month of cruising with no toilets. Not a fun thought. The season was over if I couldn’t find a solution.

After some time on the phone with Grand Banks I convinced myself that everything was working, right up to the point where the fluid hit the through-hull. As near as I could determine the entire pump out system was working fine, but there appeared to be a clog somewhere downstream from the pump. The boat had been out of the water for bottom painting. Maybe something happened then? If so, we’d need to haul out to solve the issue.

As we were talking about returning to port, I had one more idea to try. I flipped to the stronger pump and just let it run for over 10 minutes. It worked! Whatever the clog was, it cleared. The season was saved! Yay!!!

There’s one more quite memorable story that I shouldn’t tell, but … ok, I will if you don’t tell anyone. When we were crossing the Bering Sea, in the company of two other boats, one of them had the same issue. We were hundreds of miles from anywhere with no help anywhere. Life on that boat was not pleasant. I knew better than to ask but am assuming that the buckets normally used for oil changes discovered a new life.

On arrival in Japan, sitting in a marina, I looked over one afternoon and saw a brown river flowing from our friend’s boat. I was immediately on the radio.

Me: “What happened?”
Our friend: “We fixed it!”
Me: “It’s spilling in the marina!”
Our friend: “Whatever the penalty, it’s worth it.”

Little boat, big waves

We have a little 25’ retired coast guard boat, that we named “Cygnet”, that we use as a shuttle between San Juan Island, where we are building a new home, and the mainland.  We chose the name Cygnet because our other boat is named Cygnus. The name Cygnus represents a swan, and a Cygnet is a baby swan.

Cygnet may be old, but I think she is beautiful, and I like the idea that you can still make out the words “Coast Guard” that once adorned the side. And to me, it’s cool that other boats assume we are Coast Guard. More importantly, Cygnet is an extremely seaworthy boat.

Cygnet BEFORE

Roberta shares my enthusiasm for Cygnet’s seaworthiness, and the Coast Guard heritage, but thought the boat looked “tired” and in need of updating. It was Roberta’s idea to have the collar (the orange/red part of the boat) painted. I contacted Cygnet’s builder, Safeboats in Bellingham Washington, who connected me with Platypus Marine, in Port Angeles Wa. To make a long story short, Platypus Marine did not think that painting the collar was a good solution and suggested a new collar.

There’s an old saying which goes, “The most dangerous thing on a boat is: A schedule.” To swap the collar on Cygnet a date would need to be established. Roberta and I would deliver Cygnet to Port Angeles on that date, check into a nearby hotel with the dogs, and then wait for the replacement to complete.

Port Angeles would only be 35 miles from our home marina, but 25 of those 35 would be spent crossing the Strait of Juan De Fuca, which can be rough if the wind is blowing.  I had to commit, months in advance, that regardless of the weather, Cygnet would be sitting at the dock in Port Angeles on the morning of June 5th. Roberta and I have traveled 50,000 miles or so via boat and have no good stories to tell of rough seas, because of one simple rule: “Don’t go unless the going is good.” I agreed to the date but grumbled a bit. It would be a good chance to see what Cygnet could handle.

Sure enough, June 5th arrived, and the wind was blowing. It wasn’t much wind, but when the wind is blowing one direction and the current the other direction, it doesn’t take much to make it an interesting trip. We had 3 to 6 foot short-period (close together) waves. In Cygnus, our big boat, it wouldn’t have been that bad, but in Cygnet it meant a very wet ride. Adding to the fun, the heating wasn’t working, and it was a cold rainy morning. We also had our two pups who didn’t like the rough ride or the cold weather. 

Cygnet’s seats have shock absorbers beneath them, helping to smooth out any bumps in the road. Our trip across the Strait of Juan De Fuca put them to the test

Cygnet handled the seas amazingly well. We even averaged nearly 20 knots for the crossing. Much of the time was spent flying through the air as we crossed waves, but we never for a minute felt unsafe. I would not want to do the trip again, but we got it done.

Cygnet AFTER

We spent a week in a hotel in Port Angeles waiting for the work to be done. Platypus Marine was excellent to work with, updating me daily and even sending pictures each day.

Our trip back to Roche Harbor was much smoother and we were under 90 minutes all the way back. 

Bering Sea

We had the good fortune to cruise Japan with Don and Sharry Stabbert, who had taken their boat to Japan via Hawaii, meeting us there. Don had always been intrigued by our voyage across the Bering Sea and wanted to follow in our footsteps (oar steps?) someday. 

They did it! Even though they are now completing their journey, their blog, www.mvstarr.com is worth reading. 

 

A B-29 crash landed on the island of Atka, in the Aleutian Islands, on Dec 9, 1942. The left picture is from our expedition to the island in 2009, and the right picture is from Starr’s recent voyage to the island

Heading from Hawaii to Japan: https://mvstarr.com/day-1-underway-at-last/

Heading from Japan to across the Bering Sea: https://mvstarr.com/to-the-aleutians-attu-and-adak/

And, if any of you are husbands, and want to see what a true class act is, read this blog entry from Don:

https://mvstarr.com/to-japan/

 

Something weird, but we like it

Roberta and I have struggled over the years over the simple issue of dining on the top deck. 

Dinners at anchor are always special

The problem is that dinner time often occurs at the same time as the sun moves to be low on the horizon. It can be hot and miserable, plus not fun to stare into the sun. On our prior boat we put roll-up shades that were hung from an aluminum rail. The shades were broken into a series of panels, so that only the panel in the direction of the sun could be rolled down. It worked, but not perfectly. A boat at anchor constantly turns as the wind shifts direction. We were constantly rolling up and down the various panels.

On this boat we decided to try something unusual. It works beautifully, even though I’d expect many people who see what we’ve done will think, “What were they thinking?”

Amazon sells stick-on hooks. They claim to hold 44 pounds and be easily removable. I ordered a package of them, and a canvas that had pre-installed grommets. 

These were the hooks: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B09ZYP3G82

And this is the result:

It looks a little strange, but for last night’s dinner we had nice shade, and when the sun moved (the boat rotated) I moved a panel in seconds. We’re happy!

What next – Where are we cruising now, and in the future?

Our cruising plans are a complete mystery to me. We built our current boat specifically to do “The Great Loop”, a loop which runs up the east coast, into the Great Lakes and down the Mississippi. For some unknown reason I’ve completely lost interest in doing the loop.

Actually, I know the reason. It has been a very long time since we had a boat somewhere with warm clear blue water and white sandy beaches.  I need warm water cruising sometimes. Where we are now, in the Pacific Northwest, is cruising as good as it gets, but its not what I’m in the mood for. I’m missing our time in the Med. We spent years cruising the coastlines of Croatia, France, Corsica, Italy, Turkey, and Greece, all of which were incredible. No place is perfect, and all of those places were a challenge to cruise (lots of wind, Med mooring, short cruising season, difficulty getting in and out with dogs, etc). I feel confident we will cruise the Med again, but for now we’re ruling it out.

Short term, our cruising plans are being affected by a new home we are building. For at least the next couple of years we’ll want to be at the new home as much as possible, during the summer, to enjoy our new house. The Med is a summer destination.

Bottom line: We want somewhere interesting to cruise during the winter. The Sea of Cortez (Mexico) is an option, as is the Caribbean. This winter we’ll ship our boat (load it on a freighter) somewhere, from which we’ll start our winter cruising. The yacht transport companies are telling me that we need to decide where we want the boat shipped sometime in the couple months. It’s a TOUGH decision, but there are no bad options, so … one way or the other, we’ll have fun!

Thank you!

That’s all for this edition of the blog. Thank you and best wishes!

Ken and Roberta Williams, with our two doggies, Keeley and Pixie
Cygnus (Grand Banks 60)
www.kensblog.com

34 Responses

  1. Hello, just wanted to say how much I enjoy your blogs. I found your site almost 15 years ago when I was starting to dream about life aboard a boat. At that time I think it was just you guys and ‘three at sea’ as the only Nordhvn blogs, and I was fascinated to read about you guys and dream of “some day”. And I was thrilled when I found out who you actually were! I had grown up with a stack of sierra online floppy’s lol, when I put two and two together I yelled at my wife “do you know who this is, I grew up with their games!” It’s funny you and my wife’s dad actually resemble each other so she was like “why are you all excited over a picture of my dad?” Haha. Anyways, thanks so much for all the great games and thanks for the blog, you were pioneers not only in gaming but also in boating and I appreciate reading about your adventures, to spur me on to my own. Thanks again, hope all is well for you and Roberta and that you have many more happy adventures and success with your new ventures!

  2. I would not venture to suggest to highly experienced ocean cruisers where they might go, but climate change and safety should be weighed. A proven, bullet-proof A/C system for doggies and peoples is mandatory now and in the future. Having been in the Caribbean on a sailing ship, I would advocate considering that region and its many different islands. South of your current location, you’ll need awnings both at anchor and moored in marinas.

    Regardless of where, we look forward to your stories, even if nothing breaks or gets stuck.

    Ron

    1. Thank you Ron. Our preference would be to cruise the southern Caribbean, but we are having trouble finding a freighter that can take our boat at a realistic price. I have an estimate to ship us back and forth from Victoria Canada, for $250,000! Ouch. Worse yet, it involves some complicated logistics, like shipping the boat to Florida, offloading it, and then re-shipping the boat to Anguilla.

      We’ll figure something out, but I’m not sure what…

      -Ken W

      1. You could freight to Florida and then work your way down the islands. Your boat is fast and shallow draft and there are several good guides to navigate those islands.Charting has improved as well. And/or, you could hire a captain who knows the waters and Customs until you get to the area you desire. The trip would offer insights into future cruising plans. Nordhavn Florida or Grand Banks Florida could recommend Captains. He/she will cost less than $250,000. Maybe there’s one who will work for software?
        Rom

  3. Ken,
    Just as we discussed long ago, she runs almost flat at speed, just as you had desired. I don’t know if you have trim tabs, but there are times when caught in rough when a bow up attitude makes for a drier, smoother ride. To my surprise, there are now automatic trim tabs that reduce both pitching and rolling while maintaining the ability to switch to manual. Viking uses them according to this trim tab maker website. https://zipwake.com/

    I know that you have gyro stabilizers, but they can’t lift you bow – I believe.

    Enjoy!
    Ron

    1. We do have dynamic trim tabs. They do an OK job, but I do wish we ran flatter. The GB60 is a bit of a weird boat in that there isn’t much of a sensation of plane-ing. It’s a fairly flat ride at all times, and feels almost the same at all speeds. The bow rarely raises above 3 degrees and at full speed the incline becomes 2.5 degrees. The trim tabs help, but are not a huge factor. I’d certainly prefer zero degrees. We have a lot of logs in the water, and even with a 3 degree incline they are hard to see.

      1. Trim tabs, if large enough, should be able to force the bow down. No clue the impact on handling or fuel economy. Would the Furuno forward scanning software see logs at a safe speed and distance? Logs scare me. I’m accustomed to East Coast mud and sand with which I have an intimate acquaintance. {;*))

        Ron

      2. OK, the Great Loop is out – good; although the Erie Canal and Lake Champlain (usually cooler too) are worth a visit.
        Therefore, the answer is a FLYING BRIDGE! Have Grand Banks mail you one and have an excellent Washington yard install it! See logs and the Caribbean without neck strain. Meanwhile, the absence of phone books will necessitate sitting on pillows to see over the bow. Perhaps switching from the bridge of a Nordhavn will require couples therapy. {;*))

        Ron

  4. Concerning your excellent ex-Coast Guard boat and rough water; it is well to remember:

    The Long Blue Line: “You have to go out, but you don’t have to come back”—origin of the old Life-Saving Service motto.”
    Not too long ago this was quoted by a Norfolk, VA Coastguardsman regarding a rescue performed in a hurricane.
    As witnessed by YouTube videos of this boat breaking and going out Haulover Inlet, FL; she is a truly able vessel only bettered by her cousin, an inboard diesel version.

    Go out!
    Ron

  5. Sea of Cortez or Caribbean: make sure the A/C is working. Unsure how much you saw from your old home Cabo, but there is undoubtedly a lot more. Is there anything to add about the places in the Caribbean, particularly if you’ve not seen them before? Enjoy!

  6. Let us know if you ever dock at Granville Island! Would love to see you at the broom shop.

    1. Hi Bob! I’m trying to decide if there is enough to do in the Sea of Cortez to keep us busy for three months. There’s also a LOT of wind, and the water isn’t that warm. Or is it?

      That said, we love Mexico! So .. a lot to think about…

      -Ken W

  7. Hello Ken and Roberta
    It all looks so cool, blue and green
    And peacefully cruising around
    Enjoy and would like to see the new home
    Do still have the little place in Palm Desert?
    I am working on a significant project in Sante Fe
    Terry Kilbane

    1. Terry – We hope to see you this winter! We love our home in Palm Desert. We may come your direction in November .. we shall see. I look forward to hearing about your Santa Fe project.

      -Ken W

  8. Hey, Ken go to Ensenada Mexico. Trust me you won’t be disappointed Roberta you r looking absolutely gorgeous as always. God bless both of you your friend James from down under

    1. I forget if you ever cruised that area. We did a few years ago and loved it. There are some awesome places on the Mexican mainland (Tenacatita, Barra, and many more).

  9. Wondered with the speed potential of the new boat, how much of the voyage is spent on plane.?
    Andy Biddle

    1. We’ve been doing short distance trips, mostly 30-50 miles. And around the Pacific NW there are a lot of logs in the water. I’ve been afraid to run fast, mostly cruising around 16-18 knots.

      It’s a bit of a strange boat, in that there really is never a sense of “getting up on a plane” like on other boats. It seems to cruise comfortably at all speeds. Once you pass 20 knots, the bow does come down, but it never really goes up. I’ve never seen the bow raised more than 3.5 degrees, and typically it sits right at 3 degrees. If I run at 25kts it will come down to a couple degrees.

      The fuel burn rises exponentially with speed. I’m starting to put together some stats, but on the run here I noticed that at 10kts I was burning 12 gph and at 20kts the fuel rate bumps up to 50gph. At 13.6kts I was burning 24 gph. The boat carries 1,600 gallons of fuel, so I can run fast if I want to, but there is a powerful incentive to take my time.

      And all that said, it’s VERY nice having the speed when crossing the Strait of Georgia or the Strait of Juan De Fuca. If I get nice smooth conditions, I rocket across as fast as I can…

      -Ken W

  10. Gee, I wonder what the source was of that “brown stream”?? Hmmmm. You also forgot the part where a certain individual and their guests were fixing the holding tank and it blew up in their faces!

    1. Grin! Without a boat, how could we have so much fun? We miss you, and your better half.

      Momentum is shifting to shipping the boat to Florida, so .. maybe soon. The only issue with shipping to Florida is to strategize where we put the boat after the cruising season. We’d like to do a one-way trip, like ship to Florida and run the boat to St Martin. or somewhere where the boat can be picked up for shipment back to Florida, or to Seattle. Or, maybe a delivery crew?

      -Ken W

  11. Hey Roberta d Ken;
    Always great and interesting to hear from you two and your travels.
    We are back up to our place in the woods in
    Northern Wisconsin. (Only about 50 miles
    From Lake Superior). Spending a little less
    time in Cabo.
    The Children’s Foundation continues to grow and we are about to start building a children’s rehabilitation center in San Jose also a small children’s hospital. The need never stops
    We have a new Chairman, Q member, Rob Harris. He is a “Boat owner” that , I think , lives
    close to you. Also a
    Newer Q member.
    All our best to you both!!
    Barbara and Larry Hendrickson

        1. Greetings Mike! I just ordered it, and have some tough teak stains to challenge it with.

          Thank you – Ken W

  12. Am at a resort in Greece (Danai) where as certain not to get seasick.

    If you are near Vancouver Island July 18-23, I will be at the Wickaninnish Inn with my family.

    Stay well!

    1. Greetings Michael! It’s good to hear you are still living the good life. We’ll be in Seattle then. Sorry we’ll miss you! -Ken W

  13. Ever thought of sailing the African side of the Indian Ocean? Mombasa to Cape Town would be epic and security is not a serious issue.

    Explore Zanzibar, snorkel in Bazaruto, guzzle wine in Franschoek…

    1. Hmmm…. An interesting idea. I’ll do some googling. We’ve been somewhat uncertain what our current boat can handle. We haven’t had it out in the ocean yet and are getting to know the boat before we do anything too outrageous. Thank you for the suggestion! – Ken W

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Be the first to know when

the game releases!

Plus, receive special insider, behind the scenes, sneak peeks and interviews as the game is being made. Don’t worry. We will not spam you, and we will not flood your box with too many emails.
 — Ken Williams

Credits     |     Video produced by: Rock Steady Media     |     Teletype photo: Arnold Reinhold     |     PDP-11 photo: Trammell Hudson