KatieKat 2004 Cruise Chapter Fourteen

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28 December 2004Cross-Border Cool Trip
31 December 2004Year-End Reflections
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28 December, 2004 -- Cross-Border Cool Trip

In the last two months we've managed to rack up 15,000 miles (24,000km) driving across Canada and the US, visiting the Annapolis Boat Show, celebrating my Godparents' 65th wedding anniversary in Buffalo NY, viewing the beautiful NorthEast Fall colors, needing another root canal, etc., but that's all another story...

Spurred on by Canadian Customs restrictions, I decided to sail KatieKat down from British Columbia to Washington in mid-December. My son Alec and I accomplished this shivering task (Kathy wisely stayed home), and made it back home to California in time for Christmas.

[Alec on Ferry with snow-covered mountains in background] It was a lovely clear day as we took the ferry across to the Sunshine Coast from Vancouver. Those snow-capped mountains may be beautiful, but little did we know that that night there was going to be a cold snap which would result in KatieKat being an icebreaker the following day.

[KatieKat at the dock in Secret Cove] KatieKat spent a lovely few months holed up in these picturesque surroundings.

An unfinished task was the re-installation of the starboard engine retaining bracket which is used to keep the engine from kicking up in reverse (I had had it re-welded). Unfortunately, the only way to install it is to get under the boat - almost impossible by dinghy, but do-able at the super low tide when KatieKat sat down and was (almost) high and dry. Unfortunately, this low tide was at midnight!

[Joe in wetsuit off starboard transom] I may be smiling, but the temperature was well below zero degC! Luckily, the water/ice (fresh stream) was only ankle-deep, but the bracket installation took the better part of an hour (thankfully I had some large C-clamps onboard). Despite the wet suit booties, I'm sure my feet were experiencing the onset of frostbite! I'm wearing a wetsuit and that hat from Mooloolaba, Australia, is WONDERFUL!

That night, we each froze: Alec in his unlined California-weather sleeping bag and I with a comforter and a single blanket. Adding to Alec's misery throughout the trip was the dripping condensation from the overhead aluminum-framed hatch above the starboard forward bunk. On the list of things to do in preparing for the Alaska trip is to develop a method of insulating those overhead hatches.

[Alec holding rope coil in midair] Think I'm kidding? Here's a photo of Alec holding our nicely-coiled frozen dockline the next morning. Note also the rope loop standing up. Needed a marlinespike to pry open the knots. My admiration for the sailors of old never diminishes.

[32 degreesF reading] Still think I'm kidding? Here's a photo of the barometer and its temperature gauge - this is down below inside the cabin, heated by one body during the night. That's 34degF = 1degC. And this is the mild Sunshine Coast...

Happily, it didn't snow that night, but the decks were very heavily frosted-over (making them quite treacherous) and we had a huge layer of ice on the water in the cove that we had to break through in order to leave. This cove is fed by fresh-water streams. Unfortunately, I was too busy to take photos - too bad, as this was evidently a very rare occurrence here.

[Frosted-over main saloon windows] [Frosted railings and side deck]

All right, now to complete the picture: the left photo shows the frosted-over main saloon windows and the right photo is an attempt to show off the thick frost on the outside of the boat. Dang, that was slippery!

Ok, so we finally got ourselves going - motored over to the fuel dock only to find out they were closed for the season, but the very nice attendant saw us and did open up and filled us up. By the time we got going it was midday, and as we started putting across the Straits of Georgia the nasty weather forecast of a storm with gale-force winds hitting that evening made me rethink this madness (we weren't going to make it across the Strait before dark) and we turned back and returned to the cove.

A couple of days at the dock allowed me to get the boat organized, assembled the SeaCycle, activated the heating system, and become acclimatized. The very cold weather didn't return, but it was still in the 30's (degF) at night. The heating system underway consists of a Honda generator and a couple of portable 110vac heaters. They actually do a reasonable job, but all the access hatches must be buttoned up! The oscillating fan on the main saloon table actually does a very good job of keeping the windows defogged on the inside, and an early-morning trip around the deck with a huge super-soft silicone rubber squeegee takes care of the outside.

With a very favorable prediction of negligible wind for the next couple of days, we took off at midday, intending to sail down the Straits of Georgia overnight and into the US the next morning. BIG MISTAKE! I had forgotten how many logs there are floating about in this part of the world, and as soon as it got dark we had to slow down to under two knots, since bumping into these monsters could spoil a whole trip. Yes, we did bump into them, more than once, but at this speed the impacts were minor and, luckily, only glancing blows, with one instance of a thirty-foot log trapped athwartships by both rudders. Terribly nervewracking (didn't sleep a wink), and has cured me once and for all of sailing at night in the Pacific Northwest inside waters!

[Log seen at night] [Seagull standing on log] [Stump with two protruding branches]

"Sucks!", as my son would say.

[Log vertically floating in water] A deadly deadhead. These waterlogged vertical logs can slowly bob up and down, easily holing a vessel on their way up.

[Alec Fishing] Alec trying his hand at trolling while rocking to his iPod - for the price of that dang fishing licence, we could have had some fantastic salmon dinners in a restaurant! The fish weren't interested in his lures.

[Alec Fishing] The good news is that, without the distractions of modern life, Alec was able to catch up on his reading.

[32 degreesF reading] We hit Active Pass at the southern end of the Gulf Islands perfectly at slack tide. Dodging ferries and logs at dawn, we continued motoring on through.

[32 degreesF reading] Love that hat!

Soon after crossing the Canada-US border, a cool-looking boat pulled up beside us from behind, and a couple of Homeland Security officers boarded us. They passed our passports and boat docs over to their colleagues on their boat, and then one of them proceeded to methodically go through KatieKat while the other kept us company in the main saloon. They were very professional, courteous, and pleasant. I was bothered by the fact that someone was going through everything in the boat without me being allowed to even watch, and, quite naively, I suggested that perhaps I could be helpful in identifying items, storage, or inaccessible locations. "NO!, for the officer's personal security!", was the emphatic response, citing that this was standard operating procedure. Other than leaving our things tusseled and a few black boot marks on deck, their inspection was painless and they returned our paperwork before leaving. When I think of all the nooks and crannies on KatieKat which could have been used to invisibly store "stuff", I think their job is next-to-impossible when it comes to larger vessels. Oh well, giving us the perception of actively doing something continues, but I appreciated their efforts.

[Security leaving KatieKat] [Security boat] [Security boat pulling away]

I managed to snap a few photos as they were leaving. Our tax dollars hard at work - what a nicely-equipped boat and crew, with three monster outboards!

We checked in with Customs in Friday Harbor. Very pleasant and professional, just like their Australian, New Zealand, and New Caledonian colleagues. Inasmuch as I was now importing KatieKat into the US, I received a rude Christmas shock by having to pay 1.5% import duty on her. Happy(?) to do my part in helping reduce the Federal deficit.

[Christmas decorations on boats] It was wonderful to see the Christmas spirit permeating the boats at the marinas. This one was in Friday Harbor, but I think the prize goes to all the Port Ludlow Yacht Club's wildly-decorated boats, which I unfortunately forgot to snap.

After catching up on some sleep in Friday Harbor, we maximized use of the temporary weather high-pressure system and motored on down across the milkpond that was the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Port Townsend, and then on down to Port Ludlow for the night. The next day, we again motored - this time, down the Hood Canal into a wonderfully-protected marina where we're tying up KatieKat for a few months.

[Windy view of water from ferry] We just made it across in time, as this was the scene the next day when we were returning with our car on the ferry across to Port Townsend (seen in the distance). Nasty 40-knot breeze. Note the tugboat pulling the barge.

[Chart with track, Straits of Georgia and Juan de Fuca] [Chart with track, upper Puget Sound]

My crude attempt to show you where we sailed, uh, motored, on this last jaunt of the year. The left chart shows our track down the Straits of Georgia and across the Straits of Juan de Fuca, whereas the right chart reflects upper Puget Sound and the Hood Canal. I'll annotate it a little better as soon as I get some time.

[Night photo of KatieKat at dock] KatieKat's temporary winter home. Note the raised waterline, as I was able to take home lots of excess cruising junk, with canned goods and books being the major culprits.

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31 December, 2004 -- Year-End Reflections

Compared with last year, this year's cruising was extremely mild - a few months of Queensland coastal gunkholing and a few weeks of exploring British Columbia. We made up for it by many weeks' of touristing Australia by car (QLD, NSW, SA, Tasmania, with Kathy taking the train to Perth and wandering the West Coast a bit) and then in the Fall driving and sightseeing across the entire US and Canada.

I could write a book contrasting this year's travels, but I'll summarize by saying that Australians are unreservedly friendly and full of humor (and it takes a while to understand that the expression "mate" as used in conversation is one of courtesy), that the Canadians are very pleasant and courteous (with some British reserve just as in New Zealand), and the US small-town friendliness is equal to that anywhere in the world (the same can't be said for big cities). Our trip across the US was at the height of the pre-election campaigning, and it was distressing to witness the tremendous philosophical division within the country, which continues...

The boating communities in the three countries are all wonderfully friendly and helpful. We are all one happy family on the water!

The sailing highlight for the year was the unique shipment of KatieKat from Australia to Canada on Dockwise Yacht Transport (in retrospect, a good decision despite my own desire to sail across), with the biggest lowlight :-) being the nightmarish sail in the Straits of Georgia (logs!!). Seeing the recent devastation resulting from the December 26 earthquake in SouthEast Asia as well as the hurricanes in Florida a few months ago, we are thankful that we didn't opt to go to either of these two areas (which we had seriously considered), but we sure do miss Australia.

Here we go again, for this year -

Boat Perceptions Update

I've exhausted this topic in each of last four years' December missives. Suffice it to say, I still love Katiekat and consider our modified Seawind 1000 to be THE vessel best suited for our cruising compared to any other boat in this price range!

The challenge for this upcoming year will be the anticipated cold weather as we cruise up to Alaska. Since this has been our first experience with cold weather (below 0degC), our boat problems included an excessively-stiffened water intake flapper valve inside the toilet pump (even after being replaced with a brand-new one) which prevented pumping in sea water (happily the fresh water hose is available from the sink right next to the toilet), a recalcitrant main water pump which never really quit working, but often only produced only a trickle (it's been flawless for 4-1/2 years), and a refrigerator which froze everything solid (this fridge has been fantastic so far, in the high Queensland temperatures - poor thing, it's never seen a really cold ambient). For that toilet valve I'll see if there's maybe a silicone gasket material which might work; for the water pump I'll add a manual backup pump (should have done that years ago, anyway), and the refrigerator can simply be unplugged (it has no adjustable thermostat). The (temporary?) electric heating system using a Honda 2000i gasoline-powered generator (its revs are a funtion of load, so it gets really quiet at low loads) and a couple of small electric space heaters works ok and produces no dangerous fumes down below. For defrosting/defogging the windows, the combination of a heater in the main saloon plus an oscillating 12v fan seemed to work quite well.

On the list of upgrades prior to starting our Alaska cruise is the addition of a secondary cockpit enclosure and engine compartment sound deadening similar to the upgrades Stephan Wendl made to his Seawind:

[Interior view of cockpit enclosure] [Exterior view of cockpit enclosure] [Engine compartment sound deadening]

Stephan Wendl has made a number of nice mods to his Seawind.

Engines -
The 9.9 Yamaha four-stroke engines each have around 1300 hours on them, with each engine having an overall average fuel consumption of 1.2 litres/hour. After sitting unused for a few months and using older gasoline, the engines were a little reluctant to first start in the 0degC temperatures, but quickly recovered and are back in their old ultra-reliable form (knock on wood). I love my Yammies!

Our Present Activity and Plans -
With the boat safely docked in Washington, we've returned home to California and are busy catching up on four-years' worth of home and property neglect. With the boat located one LONG day's drive from home, numerous boat projects are in the offing. Plans are to re-commence our cruise in late April.

Hopes for the New Year -
Anyway, we trust you had a wonderful Christmas and we wish you a Happy New Year. In the big picture, we hope for a safe and rapid recovery for those devastated by the tsunami calamity and wish for a rapid closure to all of the world's unrest - life is simply too precious, and we recognize and appreciate and are thankful for our own good fortune.

Joe and Kathy Siudzinski

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