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Shake-Down Cruise
June-July 2009

We returned mid-July from a two-and-a-half week shake-down cruise that took us from Vancouver to Ucluelet on the west coast of Vancouver Island and then 250 miles out into the Pacific using as our turn point the summit of Cobb Seamount, an extinct volcano some 25 metres below the surface. The purpose of the trip was to test all of our systems and ourselves for extended cruising.

We left Vancouver’s False Creek on Monday 29 June and motored out into English Bay, where we set sail and tacked our way out in 20 to 25 knots of westerly winds and against the flooding tide. As we rounded the bell buoy, the winds started easing and we had a nice broad reach down the Straits of Georgia, which gave us an opportunity to continue practicing with the whisker pole and to try various preventer set-ups. In the late afternoon, just north of Active Pass, the winds finally died.

Five hours of sailing and the batteries were still showing 100%. Not bad considering we were running both freezers and both fridges, the auto pilot, the chart plotters, the radar, the forward-looking sonar, the VHF, we spent some time on the SSB, and for lunch we ran the inverter to power the panini grill and to make tea. It looks like the 1225 amp-hour battery bank is happy with the 522 Watt solar array and the D400 wind generator.

We motored through Active Pass and across to Ganges on Saltspring Island, where we spent the next two nights on our yacht club’s out-station. We had planned on sailing onward on the 30th, but there was absolutely no wind, so we practiced shopping, storing the pantry, lazing about and playing visiting cruiser. We managed to pass this part of the shake-down without any problem.

The 1st of July, Canada Day was sunny and calm, and since we had dinner reservations at the Sooke Harbour House that evening, we decided to head out. We motored the whole day to Sooke, where we went alongside at the Sooke Harbour Marina. After we had secured and had taken the dog ashore, we cleaned and dressed-up in anticipation of dinner. The Sooke Harbour House was named “One of the five best Country Inns in the world” in 2000 by Gourmet Magazine and second best hotel in North America . As well, it was called the “sixth best small hotel in North America ” by Travel and Leisure Magazine. The restaurant’s wine list has been awarded the Grand Award by Wine Spectator for having one of the best wine lists in the world and it received a Platinum Award from the Vancouver Playhouse Wine List competition in 2008. Our shake-down training for today was gourmet dining ashore.

Sinclair Philip has owned Sooke Harbour House since 1979, and in the days when I was a wine importer, he was a very good client. He is a proponent of seasonal, regional and whenever possible, organic foods. His menus focus on local fish and shellfish as well as on a wide variety of organic herbs, vegetables, salad greens and edible flowers from the restaurant’s year round gardens. Local foragers supply wild mushrooms, wild seaweed and berries.

Sinclair wanted to see our new boat, and he offered to drive us to dinner and back. He was so impressed with Sequitur that he phoned one of his friends, who is mid-way through building a sailboat, to come down and see it also. This whole thing took so long that Sinclair had to phone the restaurant a couple of times to tell then that “Table 6 was not late. They were with him and the delay was his fault; we will all be there shortly”.

Among the things the restaurant is famous for is its “gastronomic adventure”, a surprise multi-course tasting menu chosen daily from the best available from their gardens, the sea and the local farmers. We chose this as well as the wine pairings, which began with glasses of Champagne. Seven courses and seven wines later, around midnight, Sinclair emerged from the kitchen and sat with us for the better part of an hour over port and wonderful conversation. He then drove us back to Sequitur. Without doubt, our day’s shake-down evolutions were a huge success.

Thursday the 2nd of July dawned clear and calm. We motored out of Sooke Harbour and into a slight breeze in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. We ghosted along for about three hours in seven or eight knots of breeze, making four to five knots, then around noon the wind died. We motored for the rest of the day, out the Straits and into Barkley Sound and then into Bamfield Inlet, where we anchored for the night. The AutoAnchor in the cockpit let-out the anchor properly, but failed to count the rode deployed, and I had to re-deploy and then count from the bow. Other than this, our shake-down evolutions for this day, which included the anchoring, the launching of the dinghy, the mounting the motor and taking the dog ashore, were accomplished without further hitch.

Friday the 3rd was another clear and calm day. After taking the dog ashore and back, and having breakfast, we dinghy-ed around the inlet and landed to explore the boardwalks. Back on board and ready to depart, the anchor came up 180o out of alignment, so while Edi motored out of the Inlet, I worked on getting the 40kg Rocna into its place. Eventually, I secured a line around the roll bar and used it to assist the windlass in the recovery. I thought of adding a swivel between the anchor and the chain, but I need to do some more research to be sure that this wouldn’t be adding a weak link to the system. While stowing the gear, I moved the anchor snubber stowage from the rope locker aft to hooks in the sail locker, a much more convenient and readily accessible location.

We motored in glassy seas across Imperial Eagle Channel and through the Broken Group to a secluded anchorage on the north side of Walsh Island. This is a spectacular area, and I hadn’t been here since the late ‘70s when as a naval officer I conducted leadership training programs here for junior officers. The area seems totally unchanged in the thirty years since; except for more boaters, it is still pristine wilderness.

Since the water in the anchorage was so clean, I decided it was a good time to test the new Spectra Newport II watermaker to see how it performed. We had set it to auto-flush every five days since we commissioned it mid-June, and because of the water quality in False Creek, we hadn’t run it through a make cycle. We had about 50 litres of water remaining in the tanks, so I set the watermaker to run for seven hours, calculating it should net us about 440 litres of new water after the automatic back-flush. Well, after its start-up cycle, it gave a “Salinity Probe Failed” alarm and shut down.

Out came the manual, and after a troubleshooting session, I determined the procedure to follow to do an override and run the system on manual. However, considering the warning: “Note: this is a temporary repair that will destroy the probe cable. After several days in this mode you may have to remove the connector, strip and spread the wires and replace in the water”, I decided to leave it for the installer to sort-out after our return to Vancouver. In retrospect, I should have carried-on with the manual override procedure as a real-time shake-down evolution. Anyway, at least now I know the theory of what to do.

Saturday the 4th of July was another clear and calm morning. After the dog walk and breakfast, the anchor came in much easier using the line I had left attached to the anchor’s tandem eye. We motored in glassy calm waters toward Ucluelet and into a fog bank. This was a great opportunity to test the automatic fog signal on our Icom 604; it worked wonderfully, and sure was easier than manually sounding a signal. We also took the opportunity to practice our radar navigation, and since the approach to Ucluelet was through narrow, rock-strewn channels between islands, with several commercial and pleasure fishermen sharing the waters with us, it was a good practice.

The fog cleared just inside the entrance to Ucluelet Harbour, and we went alongside the fuel dock to practice topping-up the 840 litre fuel tanks and to practice paying for the diesel. We also topped-up the water tanks, calculating that the 527 litres should be plenty for the rest of the trip.

Around noon, we nestled in among five other boats from the Bluewater Cruising Association (BCA), alongside in the Ucluelet Small Boat Harbour. There was another BCA boat at anchor just outside the marina, making a total of seven that had come here for the annual BCA Vancouver Island Cruising Experience (VICE). The purpose of the VICE is to assemble off the west coast of Vancouver Island and sail west into the Pacific for three days, then turn around and head back in. The intention is to give the skippers and crew a real-time look at how they and their boats handle an offshore experience.

We began organizing in mid-January, and a dozen-and-a-half boats played with the idea of participating. By the end of January, there were a dozen boats planning on sailing out from Ucluelet in the first good weather window after the 5th of July. Boats joined and left the list, and so here we were, in Ucluelet on the 4th of July, and the five-day gribs looked good. The seven boats were: Aquatherapy, a Beneteau 432; Borboleta, a Beneteau First 405; Pamdemonium, a Caliber 38; Sea Reach, a Spencer 42, Sequitur, a Hunter 49; Tahnoo, a Spencer 1330; and WayShe Goes II, a Maple Leaf 45.

We spent much of the rest of the day checking-over the boat and replenishing the fridges with fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses and meats. Before we left Vancouver, we had laid in a good supply of dried fruit, nuts, salami and other calorie-rich snack items. Also, before leaving Vancouver, I had spent much of a day cooking batches of pork barley stew, chicken and rice, and cream of asparagus and winter vegetable soup. These we had put into one litre Lock-and-Lock containers and frozen, providing us with eight quick-serve comfort-food dinners for offshore.

I tested the EPIRB battery, tested the Iridium satellite phone and downloaded grib files. Our newly installed Icom 802, AT-140 tuner and Pactor usb2-3 modem were still having teething problems, and we have to re-route the coaxial cable from the tuner to the antenna. Voice transmission and reception were spotty, but at least we were able to send and receive emails.

The group met on the float between the boats at 1800 and discussed departure time, route, communications and other details of the trip. Back in April or May, the group had decided on using as our destination Cobb Seamount, which rises to about 25 metres from the surface and lies some 250 miles WSW of Ucluelet. This extinct volcano, we reasoned, would be preferable to an arbitrary lat and long. The necessary details, such as departure time, and communications nets and minimum and maximum speeds under sail and power were discussed and decided upon cleanly and simply. We thought the meeting was over, but it suddenly took off onto tangents, discussing alternate destinations, Plan B, Plan B-2, Plan B-2 mod A…. By the time it got to Plan C, we had decided to leave the camel designing to others, and we went below to file a trip plan with the Coast Guard and to start preparing dinner.

After a round of photos, the group of seven departed Ucluelet as planned at 1100 on Sunday the 5th and ran into fog shortly after the harbour entrance. We set sail off Amphitrite Point and headed off on a course of 240o in light north-westerly winds, making five to six knots. Sequitur was soon at the head of the fleet, and we communicated our AIS and radar contacts to the other boats as we crossed the shipping lanes off the entrances to the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

It was sloppy going; the winds were light, without sufficient pressure to steadily fill the sails in the westerly Pacific swell meeting the continental shelf and being combined with cross seas from weather off to the northwest. The winds slowly eased through the afternoon, and we were down to a bit above three knots. I was about to rig a preventer on the main to stop the boom from slamming, when the wrong combination of lull, swell and gust centered the boom then slammed it back out, blowing a shackle on the traveler. After I had jury-rigged the traveler with a piece of spectra, I made a note to myself to buy a few spares of each shackle, block and small fitting aboard.

With the wind light and variable, and with the continuing sloppy seas, we decided to flash-up and motor-sail. Because the group had decided on a speed of five knots under power, we motored along at a very quiet 1350 rpm. By the time of our 1800 VHF radio net, the remaining six boats were scattered across about fifteen miles and now off the continental shelf and into a somewhat easier sea, though still quite sloppy. One of the fleet had decided it was too rough for them and they turned back to Ucluelet.

Around 2000, I went below to heat-up the pork barley stew that had been defrosting in the sink since mid-afternoon. It was not fully defrosted, and needed about fifteen minutes of slow heating and forking apart in a pot on the stove to be ready. The stove hit its 30o gimbal stops rather frequently, showing how sloppy it was, but even with this, our motion was quite comfortable. Half litre bowls of thick stew and big thermoses of tea made the perfect meal; great warm comfort food. The shake-down lesson here was to take the evening’s meal out of the freezer by noon and put it in the sink to defrost.

While Edi went below to bed, I took the watch from 2100 to 0200. I was very comfortable, laid back along the cockpit cushions, propped by pillows and covered with a thick fleece blanket. I had the chart-plotter screen swivelled so I could easily see it and monitor the split screen with chart, radar and AIS overlay. I used a solar-charged LED reading light and lost myself in a book. The wind came up after midnight and I shut-down the engine and set-up on a broad starboard reach with staysail and the main two-thirds rolled out.

I woke Edi for her watch at 0200, and once she was on deck and comfortable with the situation, I went below to bed, and came back on deck at 0700, fresh and ready for another day. Fifteen minutes later Edi had brought up a breakfast of vanilla yoghurt, toasted bagels, cream cheese and fresh coffee.

By the time of our fleet’s 0800 radio net, we were fed, relaxed and very comfortable. I had rolled-out the full main, the jib and the staysail and we were moving along at about eight knots close-hauled on a starboard tack. It surprised us; therefore, that several in the fleet were uncomfortable with their ability to handle the conditions, and wanted to turn back. I told them we were very relaxed and at ease with the boat and the conditions, and that we would continue on to Cobb Seamount as planned. Pamdemonium echoed our desire to carry-on. The rest of the fleet eventually decided to carry-on until early-afternoon, and then discuss turning back in a 1400 radio net.

In the early afternoon, Pamdemonium announced that their forestay had parted, and that they had just completed jury-rigging an emergency forestay with halyards. The rig was stable for motoring, but they could not risk raising sails, and they considered it prudent to turn back. I offered my condolences and then waited for about fifteen minutes for some of the remainder of the fleet to volunteer to accompany Pamdemonium back in.

Finally, after no response from the fleet, I told them that since none had offered to accompany Pamdemonium back, Sequitur would abandon the trip to Cobb and escort her. Almost immediately all the other boats decided to head back to Ucluelet. Since Pamdemonium would now have a good escort, I told them that Sequitur would carry on to Cobb Seamount, and that anyone who wished could join us. We continued southwest, while the rest of the fleet turned northeast.

The swell continued at four to five metres with two to three metre seas, and the winds backed through west forcing us about 15o south of the rhumb line to Cobb, then 30o and eventually 40o. We kept a comfortable starboard tack and I took a long nap on the portside cockpit couch, while Edi stood watch. By 2000, the dinner had thawed, and it was easy work for me to heat the home-made chicken with rice and vegetables. There is nothing like a big bowl of hot delicious comfort food to add to a sense of security.

On Monday night, I again took the watch from 2100 to 0200, while Edi slept below, then I went to bed until 0700. I have found that in the temperate zones, from mid-spring to mid-autumn, this rotation is ideal for a couple, in that it gives one watchkeeper a sunset and twilight and the other a twilight and sunrise; the dark hours are shared, and they go quickly. Naps or bunk time between chores and watches during the day keep both watchkeepers fresh, alert and relaxed. The longer hours of darkness in the cooler seasons and in tropics make this rotation a bit less perfect, but still quite workable.

Shortly before 1400 on Tuesday the 7th, as we were nearing Cobb, the seas began to build, and become more erratic. We were pounding into waves more frequently, and with more force. After one particularly violent smash into the oncoming sea, we could hear a regular sharp banging. A quick look below to check for an unlatched cabin or locker door found nothing. The bang persisted, and we could feel it shaking the hull. The anchor had come loose. Our 40 kg Rocna had sheared its retaining pin and broken its lashings, and was now dangling over the end of the anchor roller and smashing into the bow. Good thing the bow, from the keel stub forward, has layers of Kevlar in its lay-up.

I quickly turned the boat downwind, put on my inflatable harness and tethered my way forward on the jacklines. I eased-out about five metres of chain with the windlass and let the anchor trail in the water beneath the hull. Then I went back to the cockpit and organized Edi with the spinnaker halyard and the power winch, and went forward again. I dipped the end of the halyard around the anchor chain and clipped it back onto itself, then walked it back, allowing the loop to slide down to the anchor. With Edi on the winch button and me holding the halyard outboard, we winched the Rocna onboard. Rather than lashing it on deck, I chose to place it shank-down into the chain locker, where it settled very securely. I then lashed it in place, and we turned and resumed our course to Cobb Seamount.

Around 1630 we began seeing flocks of seabirds, predominantly fork-tailed storm-petrels and Leach's storm-petrels, both in the air and on the water, and there were many blackfooted albatross cruising on the air currents. We had arrived on the summit of Cobb Seamount. After being off soundings for a couple of days in depths of 2500 to 3000 metres, the depth sounder was again reporting depths. In the swell, we were getting readings of 80 to 85 metres, then a quick rise to 24 and 19.5 metres, then back down to readings in the 80s. We had sailed over the summit.

We fell off onto a much more comfortable downwind run, with the wind and the seas on our port quarter and began our return to Ucluelet. We were making about five-and-a-half knots, and with about 250 miles to go, this speed would take us about 46 hours to cover the distance and give us an arrival at the entrance to Ucluelet Harbour around 1500 on Thursday. An average of six-and-a-half knots would give us an arrival around 0800 on Thursday. This looked like a good safe window for making our landfall.

Edi had been taking her showers in the forenoon while I was on watch, and I had been showering in the late afternoon or early evening. While it wasn’t really uncomfortable in the sloppy seas of the past couple of days, our current downwind course certainly made showering easier, and I enjoyed a much longer one than usual.

The motion was very comfortable, and I could have very easily prepared a meal from scratch. We had fresh boneless chicken breasts, beef tenderloin, red snapper fillets and pork tenderloin in the fridge, and among the vegetables in the crisper were asparagus, crimini mushrooms, red, orange, yellow and green peppers, celery, carrots, green beans and broccoli. We had a good stock of fresh ginger, garlic, shallots and onions. However, I had taken a Lock-and-Lock of home-made cream of asparagus soup from the freezer around noon , and by the time we had settled in to the downwind course, it was already nearly thawed. So I thawed some jumbo prawns in tap water, de-tailed them and warmed them in hot water from the tap, added a knob of butter and some fresh tarragon to the heated soup and ladled it over the hot prawns in the bowl. Delicious, simple and very filling.

On the third night, I again stood a very easy and relaxing watch from 2100 to 0200 while Edi slept, and then I was fresh and eagerly back on deck by 0700. We were now making a steady seven-and-a-half knots, and if this held, we would be making landfall around 0500 on Thursday, shortly before sunrise.

Wednesday was an uneventful, relaxing day with rather steady, but diminishing winds from the port quarter. Highlights were Edi’s wonderful lunch sandwiches of sliced garlic-roasted pork loin, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, Moroccan olives and blue cheese on pumpkin seed bread. We lazed about in the cockpit, read, alternated watches and napped. By mid afternoon, the winds had almost completely died, and the seas had become glassy. I flashed-up the engine and rolled in the sails, and set our speed for a dawn landfall.

We decided to do a load of laundry to try-out the washer-drier while underway, but could not get it to work. The yard was supposed to have set it up to work off the inverter, but after some troubleshooting, it became apparent that they had not yet hooked it up. Our laundry would have to wait until we are hooked-up to shore power.

On Wednesday night, I prepared tarragon chicken breast with gnocchi in a crimini, shallot and chardonnay sauce and a platter of asparagus with mayonnaise. I again stood watch from 2100 until 0200, and around midnight , we began encountering shipping heading in and out of the Straits. I had good radar and AIS plots and a nice radar paint of the Vancouver Island mountains to hand over to Edi when she relieved me. I left her with the landfall, and went below to bed for a nice sleep and then came back on deck at 0530 to watch a spectacular sunrise.

At shortly before 0800 on Thursday the 9th we secured alongside in the Ucluelet Small Craft Harbour, where we spent a couple of days. Edi kept the washer-drier in our workshop/pantry busy while I overhauled the anchor and remounted it, then went to the chandlery and bought some fittings to repair the traveller, hauled the mattress out of the fore cabin and onto deck to rinse out the salt water and dry it in the sun. The starboard deck hatch there had leaked in the boarding seas and it needed to have its dogs tightened and its gasket wiped with vaseline.

We left Ucluelet mid day on Saturday, heading northward into Pipestem Inlet to rendezvous with Aquatherapy and Borboleta and anchor for the night in a small bay near the mouth of Cascade Creek. We ran into fog in the harbour entrance, so we motored in the glassy seas and practiced our fog navigation for an hour or so until we ran out of the north side of the bank.

We anchored near a tiny island that was steep-to and an ideal place to land the dinghy and walk the dog. The inter-tidal area here is carpeted with oysters. In the mid afternoon, Borboleta arrived and anchored, and then an hour or so later, Aquatherapy arrived and rafted on Borboleta. We were all invited onboard Borboleta for happy hour, and while we were there, we invited them all over to Sequitur.

Sunday the 12th was still calm, so we motored through the Broken Group, across Imperial Eagle Channel and around Pachena Point into the Straits of Juan de Fuca. It continued near windless, so we motored in the Straits, arriving in Port Renfrew in the early evening, just as the wind started. By the time we reached the anchorage at the head of the inlet, the wind was blowing about twenty knots directly up the inlet. I remember this place from my Navy days as being nearly always windy, with little protection from the prevailing westerly winds.

We tucked into the protection behind the stubby old abandoned breakwater, looked around the anchorage with the forward looking sonar and anchored in two metres of water. We were out of the wind and chop, and the tides until noon the next day would give us a minimum of just over half a metre under the keel. I kept the chartplotter on at very large scale with the anchor as waypoint and a split screen showing the bottom. When I brought the dog back from her midnight visit ashore, the tide was rising and the track on the chartplotter showed a consistent pattern centered on the anchor’s waypoint. We slept very soundly.

Monday the 13th of July was another clear and calm morning. We weighed anchor and headed out before just before 0800, and were soon back out into the Straits with no wind and glassy seas. As we motored along, Edi brought the bagel toaster up to the cockpit and served a delightful breakfast. In the late morning, we rolled out the sails to catch a wind that had come up, but it soon died and we continued motoring. We motored through Race Passage against a strong ebb and pointed for Victoria’s Inner Harbour, where we secured alongside for the night in front of the Empress.

Tuesday was another hot, sunny and calm day, and the lack of wind forced us to motor all the way from Victoria to Ganges, where we spent the night on the False Creek Yacht Club out-station. Wednesday morning we had a nice sail out of Ganges Harbour, through Captain Passage and out into Trincomali Channel, where the winds died. We motored up Trincomali, through Porlier Pass, across the Straits of Georgia and into English Bay, arriving home at the False Creek Yacht Club mid-afternoon.

We had been out for seventeen days, had covered 940 nautical miles, including five days on the open Pacific and had only a short list of arisings from Sequitur’s shakedown cruise. It would have been nice had we been able to sail more on the passages to and from the west coast, but we were grateful for the 840 litres of diesel tankage and the very economical fuel consumption.

last edited 19-Oct-09

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