Our poor boating community has taken a real beating these last few months on Kootenay Lake. We have gone from warm, mild, winter weather, to freezing, windy, cold weather. Many of the boats in the area have become casualties of this ice and wind combination, so I thought I would put together a few tips on how to keep your boat safe during this time.
If your boat is out on a pin right now, the best thing you can do is ensure that your mooring lines are secure and in good shape. Yes I said lines. Plural. Make sure you use strong lines with a bit of stretch to take some of the load off of your bow cleats (such as nylon lines). There are many boats out there that are not correctly tied to their moorings, which is why so many lines are breaking and boats are adrift. The best way to tie your boat to the mooring ball is to use two separate lines through the top metal loop in the ball and then back up to your bow cleats (going through your chalks as well). It is a bit difficult to explain, so here is an article with photos: https://theboatgalley.com/connecting-to-a-mooring-ball/. When you use this method you will not be relying on one line to secure your boat and your lines will not get wrapped and tangled around each other as the boat swings and you now have 2 lines securing your boat.
If you are at a dock right now, there are several things you should be doing. Fender up! Put out as many fenders as you think are needed along the beam of your vessel (the widest part which is against the dock). Make sure you are using weighted fenders (read this article on fender selection) and make sure that the base of the fender is at the water line and with a bit of extra slack in the line — unless your dock is high, then make sure the dock is half way up the fender or withing the bottom 1/3. If you put the fender too high it will just land on top of the dock as the boat rocks up and down in the slip and they will not protect the hull.
Docklines should be checked and retied as needed. Look at which lines are taking all of the load and see if you can add an extra line to lesson the load on that one cleat or spot on your boat. Check the cleats on the dock for wear and tear. I know we would like to put all of our faith in these little things, but many of them are only held down with lag bolts at the most and with a 7,000 lbs boat pulling on them, they will break. Make sure you tie the boat tight enough to not rub on the dock in places (like your bow hitting the top of the dock), but loose enough that the boat moves around within the slip.
As a responsible boat owner you should be checking on your boat — provided it is safe to do so. Snow can be swept off of your deck; leaving it there will just cause it to potentially get heavy and weigh down the boat or it will melt off and get into the cabin through that pesky leak you have not managed to locate. In my opinion ice should not be hammered or scraped off of the boat as you are more likely to damage your gelcoat or fiberglass by doing this. It depends on the situation, but if the ice is not threatening to sink your vessel or damage something else on the vessel (engine), leave it to melt off.
You should check your bilge for any excess water. This could mean you have a leak. While checking on the bilge you should be checking that your bilge pump works (many are battery operated and die over the winter when the batteries die). If you have water in the bilge, bail it out. If it appears to be excessive water, start checking under your floorboards to find the source of the leak.
Many sailboats go down over the winter because their self-bailing cockpit gets blocked (San Juan 21s seemed to be plagued by this). Check on your cockpit thruhulls and self-bailing holes to make sure they are not iced up or full of debris. Perhaps find something to poke through the holes to make sure water can get through.
These are just a few tips to make sure your boat makes it through the winter so you can enjoy a wonderful summer on the water. It just takes a few trips to the boat (maybe once a month depending on the weather), and it takes a few minutes to check on your lines, fenders and bilge. However, in the end it can save you from having to salvage your boat from the beach or the bottom of the bay come Spring.
What other winter boat storage tips do you have to share? Let me know!
As I complete my thoughts about our trip, I have realized that there are some basic rules and things to know before heading off on a trip like this. Here I shall share them with you. My commandments of offshore sailing:
Hope you enjoyed our journey and you have learned a few things to put into your tool box if you ever head off into the great Big Blue!
Today is Geoff’s birthday! And no one will let him forget it for a minute! Ha. Sound familiar? We have decided we are living groundhog day every shift. We have a “routine” of get up, get food, get dressed, look for land, take the helm.
We have actually noticed more air traffic going overhead so we know we are getting closer to land! Wren mixed up some hand squeezed orange juice for Geoff for his birthday and we polished off a bottle of wine while sitting in some sun.
We have spotted a couple of larger fishing vessels in the area and we have a rookery of Albatross hanging around (which is a bit odd since they like to be alone for the most part). We have also just received a tail wave from a whale! She surfaced about 50 ft away and then dove with her spectacular tail going right up int he air for us all to see. One more thing of my trip bucket list!
NOTE: Not my photo. None of us were fast enough to get a photo, but this is what it looked like, but a bit further (thanks Pinterest)
Geoff is convinced that we are being watched. We keep seeing these large fins sticking up over the water and I keep thinking they are sharks. Turns out they are giant sunfish!! They can grow to be over 1,000 kg (2,200 lbs!!) and over 3m long. They hang out close to the surface eating the Vallela Vallelas (jellyfish – their primary source of food) and they use the sun rays close to the surface of the water to regulate their body temperatures.
Land ho! We can see Vancouver Island! Spirits are high as we know we are not far from loved-ones and hot showers. Traffic is picking up as well and we are enjoying listening to the Coast Guard hail a Russian ship that has a faulty EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon). There’s real confusion on the ship as to what the Coast Guard is talking about. It takes a couple hours, but the ship is eventually ok’d to continue on its way.
The Cape Flattery lighthouse leads us into the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the excitement is building. We have not see this much action in 2 weeks and all of the various lights and radio chatter is causing a bit of sensory overload! We navigate the Salish Sea during the night and there are fishing boats EVERYWHERE. The boats keep putting on their spotlights wondering what the heck we are doing in their “territory”. It’s causing us to duck and weave about to avoid the nets and, unfortunately, Captain Travis is not getting much sleep.
We have finally arrived in Victoria and the harbour pilots lead us in. If you have never boated or even seen the water traffic in this area, it is a must. There are ferries, whale watching tours, sea taxis, air taxis, tourism boats, and other recreational boaters. We are arriving in the Inner Victoria Marina and realize there are hundreds of people watching us arrive. What a welcome committee! Turns out, the Victoria Dragon Boat Festival is on!
We are greeted at the dock by Charlotte Gann who has been updating our FaceBook page for us. We tie off and head off to the nearest pub for a pint and burger. It feels so weird to be on land and I can’t seem to stop swaying. I miss the boat already and feel out of place surrounded by these land lubbers. I get reception on my phone and the messages start flooding in. Time to call home and book a flight!
This has been quite an adventure and I am sad to see it end. However, writing about it has let me relive it all over again and I look forward to my next big blue trip! Thanks to Travis for letting me join the trip and to all my fellow scallywags for a fun crossing.
Today is my birthday and no one will let me forget it for a minute! Nope. Every time I get up for shift someone yells “Happy Birthday Penny!”. Ha. The first few times I felt really special and spoiled… now I have a headache 😉
Travis spoiled us with a “gimbled” baked brownie (slightly lopsided, but delish) and BBQ!!! The weather did not cooperate for us to have our halfway party when we wanted to, so we are having it today. Now I feel a little silly because Duncan and I bought leis for everyone in Hawaii (Wren’s idea) and now I am handing them out at my own “party”?! Whatever. We are all having fun and spirits are high.
We have had rain and cool evenings for a few days now. I am starting to really dislike heading up on deck for night shift. I spend my whole shift trying to stay warm in one spot. Heading down to sleep is not much better as I negotiate getting off damp layers and trying to get into my damp sleeping bag. My hands have been wet for days and have been peeling like nothing I have experienced before.
On another note, I had a glass of WINE! It was glorious.
We have been spending more time overlapping our shifts and chatting with Duncan, Paul, Travis and Kait. I have realized that Duncan is full of questions and curiosity. Wren has started calling him Curious George (Travis is “The Man with the Yellow Hat”), and there have been several times where he has gone to fiddle with something only to have one of us suggest that maybe that’s not a great idea! We have also started calling Travis dad and asking “Dad, are we there yet?”
Paul is quite the bartender as we have all realized that we might have a bit too much Costco-sized “drinks” onboard. We just need to knock the shoulders off of a couple of bottles, so our evening dinners now have a glass or two of something that Paul has mixed up. DJ Kait has been supplying us with dinner tunes and we have turned Turnagain into a great party boat! So far the neighbours have not called in a noise complaint 🙂
We are dead in the water. I think if we were not using the motor we would easily add another week to our trip with some of the doldrums we have encountered along the way. This is a good time to catch up on reading (I’m reading Red Sky in Mourning… who does that when they are sailing in the middle of the Ocean!?), and iPods have become a familiar add-on up on deck. We even had some sun today and managed to dry out some of our gear. I have been pouring over Travis’ charts and books and making notes on which ones I should buy to get to know the Coast better. The Hawaii to Victoria chart is pretty white (!!). Other than submerged cables and crazy depths, there is not much to look at!
During our night shift Geoff stepped on a bird. Yup. A bird. In the cockpit while we were changing the guard. I thought I had heard chirp chirp while on the helm, but I just chalked it up to losing my mind.
We have noticed a few smaller birds here and there flying around the waves. They never really got close enough for us to see, but apparently this one decided he needed a break. Stowaway! He proceeded to leave lovely white drops all over Turnagains teak decks and I don’t think Travis is going to be a fan of our new pet when we gets up on deck.
I was right. Travis did not appreciate our feathery stowaway, Simon, so he was asked to vacate the premise. Curious George had grown fond of Simon and decided that he would gently toss him off the boat. He’s a water bird after all, so surely he will fly? Nope. He landed with a wonderful splash and Duncan thought he had drowned Simon for sure!
Afternoon shift comes along and we are back up on deck. Guess who is hiding behind the shrouds up near the bow? Yup. Simon! I’ve never seen Duncan so relieved…
What is not relieving for Team Cruising is the giant thunderstorm that we appear to be heading into. Geoff and I are warming up below, when Wren flies down the hatch to wake up Travis. Time to get the electronics into the microwave!
To be continued…
Photo credit: Geoff Lugar, Paul Carrier and Author’s own
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