23 Sep

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Finding Pax: The Unexpected Journey of a Little Wooden Boat (Excerpt)

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pax

An excerpt from Chapter 2: The Best and Worst of Days, pages 30 and 31

From FINDING PAX: the unexpected journey of a little wooden boat
by Kaci Cronkhite, for readers of Small Craft Advisor

pax

DURING THE HOUR’S DRIVE to Port Angeles and the hour-and-a-half Black Ball Ferry crossing to Victoria, Adam answered questions, offered advice, and quelled my nerves. Outside the ferry terminal, in welcome contrast to the horde of tourists, stood a young man with a fuzzy beard, a fisherman’s cap, and glasses. It had to be the owner, Derk Wolmuth. When he raised a hand, I waved, and within seconds we were on our way to see Pax.

His car smelled like wood smoke and was cluttered in a familiar sailor’s way with tools, rope, books, and bags. I crawled into the backseat, giving Adam the extra leg room as Derk passed around a bag of fresh-steamed salmon buns. His thoughtfulness and the warm local food put us all at ease.

As we made the half-hour trip across the peninsula together, the guys talked wooden boats while I listened, contemplating my decision and watching the British stone formality and urban buzz of Victoria’s inner harbor give way to the open, arty, tree-lined streets of Oak Bay.

Through a clearing in the trees, I spotted sailboat masts and the rocky headlands of Cadboro Bay. The sun was hot on my face when we got out of the car at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club where Derk had Pax moored.

The bay was warmer than Port Townsend, protected from winds in three directions. Only a slight current of tide and whisper of wind nudged the mooring buoys. Otherwise, all was peaceful. Still as a picture.

As we waited for the club’s security gate to open, conversation stopped. I scanned the docks, expecting to see Pax. Derk pointed out into the center of the bay.

Of course. She was unmistakable. The reflection of her tall wooden mast extended toward us like a ribbon on the water.

We followed him to an empty slip marked “RVYC Guest” and waited while he went to get the boat.

As he rowed away, I took a wide-angle picture of the bay with my phone, then zoomed in for a second shot. As I framed him in the foreground and Pax beyond, his face was hidden in shadow, and something else, maybe his posture, made it feel too private a moment. I lowered my camera and instead watched the perfect line of the wake of his rowboat and the even pattern of his strokes on the water.

From what I heard on the drive and could see in his easy manner, he had been rowing and sailing boats his whole life. Now, when he got to Pax, he shipped an oar and put one hand on her cap rail to stop, then crossed the oars and stepped aboard her with the fluidity of a lifelong mariner.

With him in view onboard her, I finally had perspective. She was larger than I thought.

To order the book click here.

28 Jul

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Handheld GPS vs Smart Phone Navigation

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The boat was leaking. I guess that shouldn’t have come as a surprise, she was half full of water when we arrived at the dock. But a few hours later, even with our hastily-installed automatic bilge pump chugging along and one of us on the hand-pump we were only breaking even. And it didn’t help when the white-capped seas being blown down from the northwest would hammer into the old catboat’s starboard bow and send buckets of water back on everything.

We were planning to deliver the little boat some 20 miles to windward, but the wave action was hard on the hull and her rotten timbers, and we had some concern she might really open up in these conditions. It was time to consider a nearer destination or bail out point in case things went south.

I went to my PFD for my handheld GPS only to discover I’d left it at home. Fortunately I remembered my iPhone, pulled it out and opened the Navionics app. Within seconds I had our location, speed, and detailed chart I could zoom instantly in and out with my fingers. As I was picking our new route I was able to see the real-time weather forecast and tidal currents—and since it was a phone, I was able to call ahead to ask the marina a question.

I’d played around with Navionics on my phone before, but had always viewed it as a secondary or tertiary navigation method after GPS and paper charts. But using my smart phone (in its waterproof case) this time convinced me it had made my handheld GPS more or less obsolete.

In a coming issue we’ll take a closer look at the smart phone vs. handheld GPS question and the pros and cons, and I’ll include comments and strategies from some experienced small-boat cruisers. We’d love to hear from you on the topic. Do you still carry a handheld GPS? Is your smart phone part of your typical navigation strategy? Is the handheld GPS obsolete or on its way to being obsolete?

—Joshua Colvin

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08 Jul

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Team Angus Rowboats Updates 7-13 —#R2AK

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JULY 2
Just talked to Colin (Team Angus Rowboats). Says he’s anchored in a quiet protected bay after another good day of progress in conditions he said included dead calm and as much as 25 knots and quite a bit of rain.

He said today included some fairly harrowing or intimidating stretches of water with big swells rolling in from the open Pacific and crashing on rocky shores and islets.

“Thank God for Navionics” he says he’s been able to find decent anchorages. This one tonight is tranquil and he’s watching a family of otters while he prepares the boat for rest–dragging all the dry bags out to the cockpit. Amazingly, after seven days of the race he said he’s only been out of the boat for about 5 minutes total, fetching water at docks. Seven days and nights without camping ashore, sleeping in a cabin no bigger than a bivy sack.

He called the race “a slog” and noted how challenging it must have been for last year’s competitors in the endless headwinds, but he’s feeling great and on the home stretch. Bring on the southerlies! More soon…

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JULY 4

Got a sat phone call from Colin (Team Angus Rowboats) from his anchorage some 50 or so miles north of Bella Bella. The place he dropped anchor is actually a provincial park–Jackson Narrows–but he’s in some very remote country. In fact today–having traveled through narrow, more protected channels–he doesn’t recall seeing a single boat. It was just old growth trees and mountains shrouded in mist.

The day began inauspiciously, as after visiting briefly with Team Sistership, who shared some coffee with him, Colin tied his boat up at the dock to refill water, only to look back and see his Rowcruiser sailing away. Fortunately it came to a stop against a nearby moored boat, but the collision broke open the tip of Colin’s ama.

Some 15 minute-cure epoxy was used to fix, and the adhesive had barely kicked off before Colin was off again and fighting 20-knot headwinds and 4-foot waves on his way out of rainy Bella Bella.

The headwinds eventually became light tailwinds as his course snaked between islands, and the patch seems to have held.

More tomorrow…

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JULY 5

Colin just checked in to report the day has been smooth sailing in moderate tailwinds and a strong fair current. Better still, as the tide changes he’ll be moving outside where the current will continue helping him along.

It turns out Murphy wasn’t completely done with Colin last night. After he settled into his cabin for sleep he realized he was adrift. A gate on the carabiner he uses as part of his anchoring system opened and the anchor rode got loose. He crawled out and rowed to shore and tied off for the night. Fortunately he was able to find the floating anchor rode in the morning light and retrieve his anchor.

More later…

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JULY 6

Colin (Team Angus Rowboats) checked in from a nice anchorage near Klewnuggit Inlet. He says he made good progress today courtesy of strong tailwinds and a tremendous favorable current that had him doing a long stretch at 8 knots.

He’d planned to push on further tonight but came around a turn in the narrow channel route he’s chosen to find a 20-knot headwind stacking up against the current, so he decided to aim for the nearby inlet and anchorage.

Colin say the steep mountains come right down to rocky shores and there are far fewer anchorages and almost no beaches to be found. In fact he says it was a bit disconcerting at his anchorage last night when the wind clocked around onshore blowing over lots of fetch at the craggy shoreline. And I’m guessing it probably didn’t help that he’d seen his first bear on that same strip of land earlier in the evening . Fortunately the winds never really came up.

He and the boat are doing great, although his auto-pilot, which had been making funny noises and which he’s come to rely on, finally quit entirely. He installed his backup unit and says it’s performing great. Who says you can’t carry everything you need on an 18-foot rowboat?

More later…

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Just heard from Colin (Team Angus Rowboats). After a dreary day spent almost entirely at the oars, he’s set the hook in a small bay on the north side of B.C.’s Porcher Island. Looking out from his tiny cabin he can see the lights of Prince Rupert and civilization just across the water.

He’d just finished his oatmeal dinner (having exhausted his freeze-dried dinner supply) and was retreating to the cabin to avoid clouds of hungry insects.

Speaking of hungry, Colin says he wondered if he’d over-provisioned, packing enough food for 6,000 calories per day, but says with all of the rowing it’s worked out perfectly.

He says tomorrow’s forecast includes some southerlies so he’s anticipating good mileage and maybe reaching U.S. waters, but as always with small boats and Mother Nature, all plans are tentative.

More soon…

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JULY 8

Just heard from Colin (Team Angus Rowboats). After a dreary day spent almost entirely at the oars, he’s set the hook in a small bay on the north side of B.C.’s Porcher Island. Looking out from his tiny cabin he can see the lights of Prince Rupert and civilization just across the water.

He’d just finished his oatmeal dinner (having exhausted his freeze-dried dinner supply) and was retreating to the cabin to avoid clouds of hungry insects.

Speaking of hungry, Colin says he wondered if he’d over-provisioned, packing enough food for 6,000 calories per day, but says with all of the rowing it’s worked out perfectly.

He says tomorrow’s forecast includes some southerlies so he’s anticipating good mileage and maybe reaching U.S. waters, but as always with small boats and Mother Nature, all plans are tentative.

More soon…

——-

During last year’s inaugural R2AK we discovered something: Although the race for first place and the $10,000 was exciting—and it truly was—the stories we ultimately found most compelling came from the teams aboard the smaller boats. In addition to sailing boats we could better relate to—boats we could theoretically own someday—the fleet near the back of the pack necessarily endured more exposure and often more hardship, and had more time to reflect on it all, as they battled the elements for days or even weeks longer than the teams at the front. Race to Alaska was effectively two (or several) different contests. So this year, to help celebrate and encourage this race within the race, we offered up a so-called “side bet” of $1000 to the first team to arrive in Ketchikan on a boat 20-feet long or under.

Conditions this year have been different, but the dichotomy remains. While Team Mad Dog and their 32-foot carbon catamaran covered the 750 miles in jaw-dropping record time, they were only actually in the race for what amounts to a little more than a long weekend. Here we are some nine days later and Colin Angus (Team Angus Rowboats)—thus far the fastest of the smaller fleet—is still 100 rainy, upwind miles from the finish.

Team Vantucky, in their 17-foot rotomolded plastic Windrider trimaran, and Team Excellent Adventure in their 17-foot Montgomery sloop are the next closest, both working their way up Principe Channel, about 50 nautical miles behind Colin, and Team Liteboat has just departed Bella Bella in his sit-on-top rowing and sailing trimaran.

Congratulations to everyone still going, we look forward to hearing the stories.

02 Jul

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Team Angus Rowboats Update 6 —#R2AK

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angus

Heard from Colin yesterday afternoon after his nice run through Seymour, just as he was freeing his rudder of kelp. He said it had been a good day with all tailwinds and no rowing, but wind was backing off and he expected to be back at the oars soon. He said it took some motivation to pull up anchor yesterday morning as he’s a bit sore, but the tailwinds were a nice reward. As of this morning he’s well past Port Hardy out near tiny Staples Island and moving northwest at a couple of knots. He’s well ahead of the next nearest small boats, which is all the more impressive when you consider Colin is sailing solo. More soon…

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