Progress

As I mentioned, I’ve been back at work in the corporate world, while Alex has been continuing work on our old wooden boat (which we still need to name, but are referring to simply as ‘The Monk’).

He has been working long days for the past few weeks, knowing that he had to go back to Toronto for a wedding this past weekend. He had made significant progress, and the weekend before he left we were able to spend a couple of days together giving it a few final coats of paint.

Although the actual repairs were the most integral to restoring the boat, like any renovation, it is always the paint that makes the most significant difference. After two part days painting, it felt so satisfying to be able to compare The Monk to what it looked like when we first bought it:

From day 1 to almost done

I went back to work Monday, while Alex spent the next few (long) days finishing up some last minute tasks, as well as finishing the anti-fouling paint on the boat.

Painted and ready

Painted and ready

It was finally ready, or at least as ready as it was going to get, and we were able to put it back in the water:

Now for those of you who may not know much about wooden boats (and trust me, I didn’t at the beginning of this venture either), while the boat is out of the water, the planks start to dry out. This means that the wood contracts, and cracks start to open up between them. This is a normal part of working with a wooden boat, and once it goes back into the water, the planks expand and (hopefully) seal up any leaks. The agonizing part is the time it takes for that to happen, while you wait to see if any of the leaks are significant enough that they need to be patched or if they will take care of themselves.

In our case, some of the leaks were worrisome, so after pausing to take a video for the blog:

Alex had to climb into the bottom of the boat and work against the water to seal the leaks with some cotton. He was able to stop the majority of the big leaks before he had to come home and get ready for his flight. Before he left though, he was able to get some more pictures of the boat back where it belongs – floating happily in the water.

The Monk at sunset

The Monk at sunset

Before and after shot

Before and after shot

The satisfaction that we both felt is indescribable; so many people thought that we were being reckless and foolish when we got the boat. Even some of the guys at the marina thought that we were over our head and that we wouldn’t be able to pull it off.

This week we are enjoying the glow of our accomplishment. We are fortunate enough to have Alex’s father here, and are able to share part of our vision and the planning stage with him (not to mention our plan for a sailing mission with him this weekend – because how can we not share that part of our life as well??).

There is still a lot of work to be done  –  the whole interior needs to be designed and built – but after the past six weeks, it feels attainable, and is just the next step in the journey.

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Another shot

To celebrate my first week at my new job (which went very well, of course), as well as the fact that it was a long weekend, what else would we do but go sailing?

After the past couple of weeks, we really wanted to get out on the water and just SAIL! We had friends visiting Saturday night, so decided that we would take them out to English Bay to watch the end of the fireworks competition (the same event that started when we were stranded there the weekend before).

Our motor was still at the mechanic’s, but another sailor had given us his old one. We had gotten it checked out, and were ready to go. It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that we once again had motor issues while in the narrows, but at least this time we still had some power and could return home safely. After fiddling around with it, we couldn’t find anything major, other than cleaning out the fuel filter. Once again, we had a decision to make: stay at the dock and just have a nice dinner with friends, or take a chance and try to make it out to the fireworks.

Since they were up for the adventure, we decided to give it a shot. We timed our departure to have the optimal tide situation, so that it would ease the demand on the pressure on the motor, and literally sailed off into the sunset.

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We made it just in time to anchor and watch the fireworks. Unfortunately, the bay was incredibly busy, and we were anchored fairly far out. This made for a rather rough night, and no one slept very well.

The next morning, Alex did his usual routine of Lenny and food excursion, and took our friends back into shore. Once he was back, we decided to make the most of some optimal wind conditions and headed out for a sail.

The life of a boat dog

The life of a boat dog

It was one of the most perfect afternoons of sailing we have had, but had to make the decision of whether we tried to anchor some place new (and further away), or headed back to English Bay for another night. Given our recent luck, as well as the lack of a reliable motor, we decided to play it safe and stay in familiar water and anchor close to home.

We made it back in time to relax for a bit and for Lenny to have a play in the dog park. As per usual, he made a new best friend and did NOT want to come back to the boat.

Someone did not want to leave the park

Someone did not want to leave the park

We had a nice dinner cooked on our new marine BBQ, then watched yet another sunset (I know, we have a tough life!).

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Monday morning we woke up to yet another day of ideal wind conditions, along with a tide that was timed perfectly for another afternoon of sailing.

The sun was out, the wind was perfect, and we couldn’t ask for more! There is nothing like feeling the power of the wind as the boat heels and flies over the water.

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Such a glorious afternoon

We were having so much fun that we decided to get adventurous. We had heard of sailing ‘wing and wing’, where the main sail and the jib sail are on opposite sides of the boat. This only works when sailing downwind, and is something we have been wanting to try.

The conditions were perfect for this style of sailing, and we were able to get both sails beautifully filled with wind:

Wing and wing sailing

Wing and wing sailing

In this position, the sails are far more finicky but the satisfaction was worth the effort! It is definitely something that we will experiment with more when the wind allows.

It was such a perfect weekend for sailing, and it really reminded us just how incredible our lives are. Even Lenny is starting to appreciate how lucky he is!

Enjoying the wind in his fur

Enjoying the wind in his fur

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The best laid plans

If you have gathered anything from reading my blog thus far, it’s that we don’t always plan things out, but for once, we had a plan!

Two weeks ago (I know, I’ve been slacking), we decided to go on our first major sailing mission. We were planning to head out for a solid six days or so, and to head up the Sunshine coast. We had laid out all of our maps, and had a rough idea of how far we would like to get each day. It wasn’t an overly detailed plan, but it was far more refined than our usual ‘Let’s just sail around’ plan.

We had decided to leave Monday evening, and only planned to sail around the point to anchor in English Bay. We figured that would save time the next morning, and that by doing so, we could cover some serious ground (water?) on Tuesday. We made it into the First Narrows channel, a narrow shipping lane that we have to pass through at the start of each journey. It was at this point that the plan fell apart. It was an hour or two before dusk, and the tide was not in our favour… Which meant it was the perfect time for our engine to die.

We quickly tried to diagnose the issue and get it working again, but had no luck. Rather than getting pushed towards the shore, we put the sails up (technically, boats aren’t supposed to sail in this area, but it a time of distress, we had no other choice.). We tried to sail out of the narrows so that we could still anchor in the bay and deal with the engine later, but the wind wasn’t in our favour either. After an hour of sailing against the tide and only moving backwards, we were able to flag down another boat that was headed out. They were nice enough to agree to tow us out of the channel to where we would be able to catch some wind, so off we went.

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Once we were safely anchored, it was time to get online and research what the issue might be. The next morning, thinking we knew the problem, we all got into the rowboat and set off in search of a new part. A couple hundred dollars later (and a much bigger new part than anticipated), we were back at the boat and ready to get to work. Working on an outboard motor that is attached to a boat that is in the water is just as challenging as it sounds. Alex had to sit in the little row boat and work on the motor while dealing with the constant waves. To add to the challenge, most of our tools are out at the wooden boat, so he was armed with pretty much just a multi-tool and a ratchet set.

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Given the way our luck was going, it probably shouldn’t have been much of a surprise when one of the key bits fell into the water, never to be seen again. After a couple of phone calls (one to the store to see if it was replaceable, and another to a friend who is a mechanic to see if there was any way to MacGyver it), we called it for the day.

The next day, armed with a new plan, Alex made another attempt to get things running. Again, no luck, although while he was doing that, I was successfully enrolling us in C-Tow (it’s like CAA for boats). At this point we had to start to think of a new plan. Knowing that this was the last week that we had for a vacation before I started my new job, we figured that we had two options: keep stressing to get back on track for our mission (which would likely mean having to buy a new motor), or stay where we were and just relax for a few days. It wasn’t a hard choice, and we decided that we would stop worrying about going anywhere, and just enjoy being anchored in the bay.

Seeing as Lenny still needs to be rowed into shore multiple times each day, we were able to stay well stocked with food, drinks and ice. Being a former rower, there was never any question about the delegation of duties: Alex would do the dog/food trip, while I would tidy up and then relax in the sun.

In the afternoons, we would relax in the sun and swim. Swimming with Lenny is a very intense experience, starting from him getting excited the moment he knows what is going on.

This was a lovely vacation – that is, until it started to rain. At that point, food and Lenny runs were no longer an enjoyable part of Alex’s morning.

Lenny trip on a rainy morning

Lenny trip on a rainy morning

It was also a lot harder to keep the boat in a relatively clean state. Our standard procedure is that Lenny stays outside when he is wet, which isn’t a big deal since we are usually hanging out with him. When it’s rainy though, we have no choice but to let wet Lenny into the cabin, and relegate him to a small spot of the floor covered with a sarong.

Wet Lenny land

Wet Lenny land

Luckily for all of us, Lenny quickly found a source of entertainment: trying to push all of Lenny-land into his food dish.

We toyed with the idea of giving in and calling C-Tow to get us home, but also knew that there was a major fireworks show on the weekend, in the very spot where we were anchored. We knew that if we went home early, we wouldn’t have things fixed quickly enough to make it back. Instead, we decided that we we stay put until Sunday morning. The weather started to clear up Saturday, in time for a nice sunset

Cloudy sunset

Cloudy sunset

followed by some spectacular fireworks.

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The next morning we got up to another cold and rainy day. We placed the call to C-Tow, only to have our sneaking suspicion confirmed: they only tow you to the closest marina, and anything other than that is an additional charge. Because that wasn’t our home marina (as we clearly weren’t about to spend a few hundred extra dollars on the tow), we had to put the sails up and sail back towards the narrows to meet the tow-boat there (needless to say, he wasn’t overly happy about that). It was our first time sailing in weather that could only be described as unpleasant. We could have been miserable about it, but instead we made some tea and made the most of it… After all, it was the most sailing we got to do in our week-long sailing mission!

Rainy day sailing

Rainy day sailing

Lenny, on the other hand? Not overly fond of sailing in the rain.

Not much of a water dog when it doesn't involve swimming

Not much of a water dog when it doesn’t involve swimming

Finally, we were able to meet up with the tow-boat, who made sure that we made it safely back to our dock.

Thank goodness for C-Tow

Thank goodness for C-Tow

All in all, it was still a perfect vacation and gave us the long overdue time to just relax and not do much. We spent a week out on the boat (and I ended up going six days without setting foot on land), and by the end were both nice and rested, and I was ready to start back into the corporate world the next day.

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Mission accomplished (part 2)

As I mentioned at the end of my last post, we just hosted our very first overnight guests in Griffin. We’d had people over for dinner or a drink before, but had never taken anyone out sailing, let alone on a two day mission. Luckily for us, Alex’s cousin Mike was in town visiting and was happy to act as a guinea pig, along with his brave girlfriend, Julia. As the day got closer, we both knew that this was a fairly important milestone for us. We are still learning to sail, and this was going to be the first time that we were going to be showing other people what needed to be done, while making sure they still had a good time. In addition, Griffin is a very cozy home and it would be the first time that there had been more then just the three of us onboard for any significant period of time. On top of those challenges, we knew that there were certain family members at home waiting for a report before finalizing any plans to come out and visit! Seeing as we weren’t able to leave until early/mid afternoon, we decided to stick with a closer destination in an area that we have already been. We planned to to head up the Indian Arm again, and to find a nice cove where we could anchor and possibly find a beach to visit.

Destination for our family mission

Destination for our family mission

The afternoon went smoothly; we had decent wind, and Alex and I were able to convince everyone that we knew what we were doing. Once we found the perfect spot, the boys went for a swim, but there were quite a few jelly fish so Julia and I decided we were cooled off enough from Lenny shaking water all over everything.

Lots of jellyfish

Lots of jellyfish

The night before, Alex and I had made sure that we caught enough crab that we could plan to have that for dinner.

Mmmm... dinner!

Mmmm… dinner!

We were in a beautiful spot, but didn’t get the sunset we were hoping for due to the smoke that was still covering everything. Instead, everything had an eerie aura about it, like an apparition, which was quite beautiful in its own way.

View from where we stopped

View from where we stopped

Once the sun had fully set, we started to fade and slowly headed off to bed. Lenny was not the most impressed that his bed had been appropriated by Mike (although by morning he seemed to decide he was ready to cuddle), the rest of us all slept well and the boat didn’t feel crowded at all. Once we were all up, we had an excellent breakfast of French toast with fresh blueberries and local honey as well as a couple of rounds of espresso. After that, we decided to head into the nearby beach for a little bit.

Griffin from the beach

Griffin from the beach

While at the beach, Alex and I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to bath and wash our hair (all biodegradable and natural, of course). Once we were clean, I started to eye up Lenny. He hadn’t had anything resembling a bath in quite some time (jumping in the harbour does not count), and was starting to be a bit of a mess. Alex and I got a hold of him, and some castile soap and a dunk in the water later, he smelled immensely better!

Bath time

Bath time

After spending some time on the beach, we knew it was time to head back to the city so that Mike and Julia could make it to the next leg of their vacation. We didn’t rush, but rather tried to savour the last few hours out on the boat. Arriving back at the marina, we all felt perfectly relaxed. Both of them seemed to have genuinely enjoyed their visit, and we couldn’t have asked for better guests or a better first trip as hosts. Perhaps the biggest compliment was Julia saying that she was so relaxed, she would have been content if that was the end of the vacation. We were beyond flattered, and at the same time, her remark re-affirmed just how happy and lucky we are that this isn’t a vacation for us – this is our life. We may not get to sail and relax every day, but what we have allows us to feel like we are thoroughly enjoying every moment of our life, regardless of what we are doing.

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Mission accomplished (part 1)

It’s been a busy week or so, with lots of boat work and a couple of sailing missions.

While waiting for our new boat to be pulled out of the water so that we can fix the holes in the hull, we decided to spend some time on the water. Seeing as it was incredibly windy (gusting up to 40 km/h), we decided that open water may not be the smartest option and instead used it as an excuse to explore up the Indian Arm for a night (the top marker on the map below).

Map of our two night mission

Map of our mission

It was such a beautiful day, so Lenny and I curled up at the bow to take in the scenery while Alex manned the tiller.

Lenny and I enjoying the view from the bow

Lenny and I enjoying the view from the bow

Once we found a nice spot up the Indian Arm (see the map), we anchored the boat and decided to go for a swim. Alex went in first, but for some reason Lenny just didn’t want to jump in.

After the initial hesitation, it became next to impossible to keep him in the boat if one of us was in the water. Most of the time this wasn’t an issue and we would have family swimming excursions (which really just consist of Lenny swimming back and forth to keep checking that we are both still okay). Sometimes it would have been easier without him though, like when I was trying to wash my hair and he jumped on me, with no life jacket (i.e. no handle to pull him out). One big scratch down my back and one sorry looking Leonard getting pulled out by the scruff of his neck later and we were all happily back on board and enjoying the scenery.

Sunset from the sailboat

Sunset from the sailboat

One thing that we haven’t mastered yet is boat-training Lenny. This means that mornings for Alex usually start by rowing the dog in for a bathroom break.

Luckily he used to row competitively

Luckily he used to row competitively

We slowly started to get ready to head back towards home, but when we got to the point when we should have headed west (see map again – home is the point on the west side), we decided to spend the night in Port Moody rather than going home (the east point on the map).

After a nice swim and a trip to shore for some necessities such as food and water, we settled in with a sleepy puppy to watch the sunset over the mountains.

Sleepy Leonard

Sleepy Leonard

Sunset time

Sunset time

When we woke up the next morning, we could see the sky over Vancouver was dark. Not wanting to get caught in the rain, we packed up and quickly headed home. We eventually realized that it wasn’t a rain cloud, but rather heavy smoke that was covering the city due to all of the nearby forest fires. It made for a rather eerie sight, especially with the sun trying to shine through in the afternoon.

Afternoon sun shining through the heavy smoke

Afternoon sun shining through the heavy smoke

For the next couple of days, we tried to get some work done on the Monk (the new boat). After they pulled it out of the water, we were able to power wash the outside. After that came cutting the planks out where the holes were, so that we could get ready to replace them.

We had to make the holes bigger before we could fix them

We had to make the holes bigger before we could fix them

While Alex was working on that, I was busy starting to clean the inside. Not wanting to soak our new home in chemicals, I relied on good old vinegar and baking soda to scrub the walls. It is a big job (and we will still need to sand and paint after), but just having it clean makes it seem so much brighter.

Before and after scrubbing

Before and after scrubbing

After making some very real progress, we took the last couple of days off  to host some family visiting from back home, as I’ll share in part two!

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It’s going to be all boat, all the time

Over the past month, Alex and I have really been enjoying working to fix up our sailboat and make it a home. All of the projects, big and small, have been amazing learning experiences, and led to us talking about the idea of getting another project boat to work on. We started watching online postings, and came across one that seemed intriguing: a 1949 40′ wooden hulled motor yacht. Although we both knew we aren’t in the ideal position to get another project boat, we thought it would be a fun day trip to check it out, so we headed down to Richmond for the afternoon.

As soon as we saw the boat, we were both taken by it. It definitely needed work, but lines were gorgeous and we could see so much potential.

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The inside was mostly gutted, although the current owner had started to work on and redesign the interior.

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The possibility that this amazing piece of marine engineering history could be our home as well as an essentially blank canvas for us to be creative was just too enticing. After spending some time on the boat, and talking to the current owner, we decided to walk away and have lunch to think it over.

Some of you may remember that it was over lunch that we decided to take the chance and move onto the sailboat; well, this time we decided that this was a boat we couldn’t pass up.

We know this is going to be even more work than Griffin, but the potential is beyond words. The next month is going to be a lot of physical work to start to fix this one up (while still trying to get out sailing as much as possible), so stay tuned to see the transformation as it happens.

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Not-so-smooth sailing

From the beginning, we knew that there will be times when things don’t go as smoothly as planned, and that those would be the times when we would learn the most. Well, this weekend was one such situation.

On Saturday, we decided that it was another perfect day to go out sailing. We headed out, and encountered what was probably the biggest water that we have been on thus far. We were comfortable with the size of the waves, but Lenny was not impressed. He spent the entire afternoon giving us reproachful looks from the floor of the cock pit, and couldn’t seem to figure out why on earth we were doing this to him.

Things were going fairly well, until Alex asked me to go down below and look something up online. Now, I don’t get carsick (a good thing, given our recent ten day road trip), but the moment I try to read in a car I get nauseous. I should have inferred the consequences of reading in rough water, but wasn’t thinking. In no time at all, I was feeling unwell. I went up on deck, but it was too late and ended up getting quite ill. This wouldn’t have been any big deal, even seasoned sailors get seasick from time to time. Of course, for us, it’s never just one thing to deal with. At the exact same moment that I was being sick, Alex misjudged a turn and the wind caught the sail in the wrong way. Suddenly, a piece of our rigging broke, and the boom was swinging freely (not a good situation, and not one that I could stop to take a picture of).

At that moment, things could have gone horribly wrong – a swinging boom is able to kill or seriously hurt a person. To our merit, we were able to pull it together quickly and work well as a team. My seasickness didn’t matter, it was now my responsibility to steer the boat while Alex brought the sail down. If I messed this up, the wind could catch the boom and knock him into the water, or worse. We quickly brought the sail down and tied the boom so that it couldn’t swing freely, then fired up the motor and headed home safely.

The piece of rigging that broke

The piece of rigging that broke

On a brighter note, we did learn how to successful fish for crabs over the weekend! Saturday night after our eventful sail, we managed to catch a single crab. We were beyond excited, and were looking forward to having him (you can only keep the males) for dinner the next day (well, maybe just an appetizer). The next morning when Alex woke up we had another, but it was a female so he released her. The following time we checked the trap, we had three more, and all day we were catching them until we maxed out our daily quota.

A successful haul!

A successful haul!

We ended up eating dungeness crab for breakfast, lunch and dinner, they were so amazing.

Breakfast!

Breakfast! Our first ever crabs!

Tonight we are about to sit down to another meal of fresh crab, and can’t help but feel that we really are living the dream, and even when things go wrong, we are still able to make the most of them. Besides, let’s be honest… everything seems better when you are enjoying a meal that has gone from the ocean to your table in under 15 minutes!

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