Saturday, April 14, 2012

Favorite Eats: Green Curry And A Few Shrimping Tips

I like exotic flavors in food, and one of my favorites is Thai green curry.  There seems to be a magical mix of flavors with green curry that just makes the taste buds in your mouth just sing - salty, tangy, sweet, and spicy.  What's more is that you can make it with whatever you like, there's no rule that says you have to have this or that in YOUR green curry.  I've put all sorts of galley "stuff" in my green curry - broccoli, canned peas and carrots, celery, carrots, bell peppers, tomato slices, potatoes, green beans, pea pods, zucchini, cauliflower, well you get the idea.  As for the "meat" or protein for your green curry, you can use pork, or chicken, or my favorite shrimp.

Remember we're on a boat, so the rules of least mess and work apply.  That means one pot. So what victuals do you need in your larder for green curry?  In British Columbia you can buy powdered coconut milk which works good in a pinch, but I prefer a can of real coconut milk.  Don't mess with trying to make your own green curry spices, just by a jar of pre-made green curry.  Again, believe it or not, many of the little coastal marina grocery stores carry pre-made jars of green curry spices.  Popular brands are Mae Ploy, Taste of Thai, Thai Taste, Maesri and many more.  It will help to have fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, and some dried basil (If you have fresh basil - great).  Finally, some canned jalapeno's (or fresh) to add some heat.  How do you want to serve your green curry?  You can use Ramen noodles, Minute Rice, or any kind of noodles.  Hey!  It's your curry.

Ready, let's start to make your boat version of green curry... 

You will need the following ingredients handy:
  • 1 can coconut milk.  Do not shake can.  You want the cream on top.
  • Jar of green curry paste
  • Can of chicken, or 1 lb. of fresh pork, or a dozen prawns.
  • Vegetables: 1 stalk celery chopped, 1 carrot chopped, or can green beans (drained), or chopped zucchini, or whatever veggies you have available
  • 1 T fish sauce
  • 1 T lime juice
  • 1 t brown sugar
  • 1 T dried basil
  • chopped jalapenos, optional (fresh or canned) to your taste
Since green curry is not something everybody makes I'm going to do a step-by-step instruction.
  1. Grab a deep pot, and heat 1 t of oil over medium high heat.
  2. Open your can of coconut milk and spoon the heavy cream into the pot.  Do not add the whole can, just the creamy stuff on the top leaving the coconut water to be added later.  Cook this for about 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Don't burn it.
  3. Add at least 1 T (or more) of the green curry paste to the thickening coconut cream and mix well continue to cook over medium high heat for about 2-3 minutes.  By cooking it like this you'll really bring out the spices and flavors of the coconut and curry.  By now, the aroma of exotic spices are filling the boat.  Again, don't burn your paste.
  4. If you are using chicken or pork add this now.  If you are using fresh pork, pound the meat a bit with a hammer to make it tender and cut it into 1/2"-1" chunks.  If you are going to use shrimp go to the next step.  Mix your chicken or pork well into the green curry and coconut cream.  You may also add your vegetables at this time.
  5. Reduce the heat to low, and add the remaining coconut milk or water to the pot and stir.  Add 1 T of lime juice and 1 T fish sauce, and 1 t of brown sugar.  You want to get those tangy, sweet, and salty flavors.  You may also add some chopped jalapenos to your curry depending on how hot you want it.  Finally add 1 T of dried basil or 1/4 C of fresh basil.  Finally, add 1 C of water to the pot.  Let all this simmer, covered, for about 10-15 minutes until the meat is fully cooked through. If you are using fresh shrimp, add them in the last 5 minutes of cooking.
  6. Next add your package of Ramen noodles or 1 C Minute Rice to the pot, stir well, remove from heat and let the pot sit covered for about 5 minutes.
  7. Ladle curry into bowls and serve with extra fish sauce, or lime wedges.  If you want to be extra fancy, top with more fresh basil, some shredded carrots, and a few crushed peanuts.
While I enjoy shrimping or prawning a lot, many times it is easier just to buy shrimp or prawns rather than get them yourself.  My reasons for buying prawns is many fold.  The regulations are complex if you are shrimping in the US, but much easier in Canada. Don't always count on getting a pot full of shrimp, sometimes you come up empty handed.  It takes a lot of work to set and haul a shrimp pot.  There's the fuel and gear cost.  And finally, sometimes you lose gear.  Still want to go shrimping?  Well here's my tips:
  • Always check the regulations first.  For Washington waters, you will want to visit the Department of Fish & Wildlife site: Make sure you have the right pot mesh size, buoy, labeling on your buoy, and know your area.  For BC waters visit:
  • For gear, make sure you have a good shrimp pot, at least 300' of sturdy nylon line - I prefer 3/8" inch (doesn't cut into your hands so bad).  And a way to spool your line.  Have at least one clip on lead weight.  Clip the lead weight about 20' down from where you tie up your buoy so other boaters will not entangle your pot line.  The proper buoy.  In BC waters I use a large cherry buoy, but in Washington waters you must have a yellow buoy.  Make sure your name, boat name, and address are on the buoy.  I use paint versus a marker - seems to last longer.
  • Avoid high current areas and popular navigation channels - if you don't you are bound to lose gear and/or not get many prawns.
  • Use a GPS to mark your spot where you set your pot.  Drop your pot down and make sure you watch the line go straight down, not at an angle.  If you set your prawn trap and the line is going down at an angle of more than 20 degrees, you are not setting your pot where you think you are.  I generally drop the trap and keep the motor in and out of gear to stay right on top of where I set it.  Just don't get the line caught in the prop - bad.
  • Watch the tides and currents.  Again, high current areas will net you only a few prawns.  Look for areas where there is minimal current.  If possible set your prawn trap during a neap tide when there is minimal water exchange.
  • Best prawning spots are where streams flow into a deep inlet and just below the drop off, especially on an underwater shelf.  Setting your prawn tap on the side of an underwater cliff will net you few prawns; but at the base of that underwater cliff is generally productive.  Use your depth sounder to get a good picture of what the bottom might look like where you are setting your pot.
  • Do not use fish heads in your prawn bait. Large rockfish or ling cod are predators of prawns.  Prawns will see the eyes and avoid your bait.  I did a test of two prawn traps - one with heads, one with carcasses with no heads.  Carcasses always had more prawns than heads.  I find that fresh bait works better than old, stinky bait.
  • If not illegal (like in Washington) sew a dark canvas tarp tightly around your prawn trap.  Prawns like dark areas.  This will make it harder to retrieve but you'll have more prawns.
About a year ago I wrote a detailed blog post on catching shrimp.  You might want to visit it to learn more.  Go to:
Big bowl of spot prawns from Kingcome Inlet

Saturday, April 7, 2012

No-Fish Boat Casserole & A Few Fishing Tips

Despite your best efforts there are times when you come up empty-handed with 'no fish.'  I hate these times when Neptune refuses to yield any bounty of the sea.  The hardest part is when you return to the boat empty handed, the crew looks at you disappointed and in disgust. Next, the grumbling starts.  Such as, "Oh, so what are we going to have for supper, huh Mr. Big Fisherman?!" Although you too are suffering from your lack of piscatorial prowess, it calls for quick thinking and action. You're the skipper. Give them comfort food!  Like noodles in creamy, cheesy goodness, and SPAM.  Huh? What? SPAM?  Yes, that magical, mystery porcine meat that really signifies that you can't catch fish.  It is the only way you can redeem yourself with King Neptune is by punishing yourself with SPAM.  Because of this, tomorrow when you go out to fish, you and anyone who eats it will reap the bounty of fresh fish.  I know it, because it repeatedly works with me.  The SPAM humbles me and helps me to think what, where, and how I can be a better and more productive angler.  As a result I always keep a can or two of SPAM in the boat's larder. (Can also be used as shrimp or crab bait in a pinch.)

"No-Fish Boat Casserole" was invented as a result of a wet, miserable day of fishing and not catching anything worth keeping.  Once again the best and most memorable recipes are born from necessity and rummaging through the larder looking for ingredients that would satisfy the crew.  It had to be easy, tasty, comforting, and nutritious, because tomorrow I will need the strength to haul in all the fish I was going to catch.  There are a few victuals in this recipe that may be problematic in your larder - cheddar cheese, cream cheese, and fresh veggies.  I try to always bring a big block of cheddar cheese on a cruise since you can do so much with it.  Cream cheese keeps well and can easily be found at various small groceries up and down the coast.  (These two items are important comfort food items so you should always have them in your larder.)  And, carrots and celery seem to keep well in the dark, cool places on your boat.  Again, carrots and celery are also common at coastal groceries.

Another note for this meal, you'll need a pot or pan that you can place on the grill.  I don't regularly fire up my oven because it makes the boat too hot especially in summer, but I do regularly use my grill.  Besides that, by placing it on the grill to cook you'll add a bit of smoky flavor to it which everyone seems to like.  I also use the time that the pot is on the grill to contemplate in solitude (with a drink of course) where, what, and how I am going to catch fish tomorrow.  Study the tides - when is slack?  Study the charts - where are those "fishy" looking spots?  Get a weather forecast.  Look at your tackle and gear.  Make a plan.  Or, you can waste your time by making excuses why you didn't catch fish and tell the lies about the big ones that got away.  Please note that the more spirits you consume the bigger the fish that got away and as a result your credibility may suffer.  Be forewarned though, these sorts of fish exaggerations may negate your SPAM eating appeasement with Neptune.

Let's get started making "No-Fish Boat Casserole" so you can get back to "catching" versus "fishing."
  • 4 1/2 cups uncooked egg noodles
  • 2 quarts boiling water
  • 1 can vegetables such as green beans, peas and carrots
  • 1 carrot or celery or both, chopped (optional)
  • 1 C milk (powdered: 2-3 T powdered milk, 1 C water)
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 2 C (8 oz) cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3/4 of package  (6 oz) cream cheese
  • 1/2 t garlic powder (can use fresh too)
  • 1 T onion powder (can use fresh too, about 1/4 onion, chopped)
  • 1 can SPAM, chopped into cubes
  • 1/2 cup crackers, crushed (can be Ritz, Cheese-Its, Wheat Thins, or even Saltines)
Cook noodles in 2 quarts boiling water for 2 minutes. Add canned vegetables and any fresh veggies you might have to the noodles and cook 3 minutes more. Drain immediately. You do not want to over cook your noodles and veggies, otherwise you will end up with a soggy, sloppy mess.  Next, add milk, canned soup, cheddar cheese, cream cheese, SPAM, and garlic & onion powders to noodle mixture and mix well.
Put pot or pan in oven or on grill over medium heat and not over direct flame. Cover with foil or a lid and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Resist the temptation to uncover and check.  After 30 minutes, uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes. Top with your favorite crackers for some crunch.  Serve to the crew along with your fishing plans for tomorrow.

Here's a few fishing tips to ensure you'll not have make or eat No-Fish Boat Casserole.  Although we do enjoy No-Fish Boat Casserole on it's own occasionally.  It is pretty good comfort food when other things besides no fish ail you.
Click on image to enlarge
  • Look for underwater hills or humps or shelves on your chart for your area.  Note when slack tide is and try to fish the location then.  Just after the tide turns, fish the downward side of the underwater hill, hump, or shelf.  
  • Avoid fishing during the middle of a big tide, or if the current is too strong.
  • Use your depth sounder not to look for big fish, but to look for bait fish.  If you spot bait fish on your sounder you can bet there will be big fish about. If you don't see any bait fish, then your chances are greatly reduced that you will catch anything.
  • If you see gulls working on bait, fish the edges of the area where the gulls are feeding.  Again, there's probably big fish about.
  • If you catch a fish, cut it's gut open and see what it is eating.  Then check if you have lures that match it.  Once, we caught a nice yelloweye rockfish, checked it's gut and found that it was feeding on prawns.  We switched to a red or pink jig and bounced it lightly off the bottom and caught more.
  • Look for small or slight current ripples on the water and fish the edges of these.  The bait fish will get caught in the current making them easy prey for big fish.
  • Fish with the current, not against it.  Once you get to the end of your area, pull up your gear and return to the start.  Don't waste time turning and going against the current.  I've always caught more fish by going with the current than fishing against the current.  Fishing against the current causes you to stay in one place and waste a bunch of gas.
  • If you don't get a bite within 10-15 minutes in one spot, move on.
  • Unless you are trolling, don't let too much line out.  If jigging try to keep your line straight up and down and your jig just above (2-3") above the bottom.  If your line gets too much at an angle, reel up and re-drop down.
  • Always check the regulations for the area you plan to fish BEFORE fishing. If not, this can really ruin your day and eating SPAM will not help.
Good luck and hope you catch the big one!
Day after eating No-Fish Boat Casserole

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Favorite Eats: One Pot Boat Spaghetti

No, I am not a "Ragu man" when it comes to eating spaghetti on the boat.  I know that might be easiest, that is, just open a jar and heat it, cook some noodles, and then mix the two together.  It still messes up two pots and "Blech!"  I just don't like it.  I live by my saying, "If you don't treat yourself right, no one else will."  So why would I treat myself so poorly with manufactured spaghetti when I could have boat gourmet?

Rainy & cold at anchor in Mereworth Sound
This spaghetti recipe, like so many oh so great boat meals, was borne of desperation, lack of ingredients, and laziness.  The crew and I had just spent all day cruising, we were all wet, tired, and cold.  The crew demanded to have something hearty, flavorful, and comforting.  Yes, comforting!  Spaghetti is one of those all-time favorite comfort foods that will tame a scurrilous crew.  It also uses bacon.  You know everything tastes better with bacon.  The boat smells better with bacon, everyone starts smiling because of the aroma of cooking bacon.  Luckily by making this dish I averted disaster and ended up having a full, happy, and satisfied crew.  So, before you leave port make sure you have the following victuals in your larder.  Bacon - thick cut the better, cream cheese, chicken broth or chicken bullion cubes, canned tomatoes, red wine (duh!), Italian seasoning (or dried basil and oregano), onion powder, garlic powder, dry spaghetti noodles.  Optionally you might want to have some dried red pepper flakes, grated Parmesan cheese, and dried parsley.  As far as cooking utensils, you will need only a pot, plates or bowls for the captain and crew, and of course forks to eat. (The less clean up the better.)

Ready?  Let's get started... Chop the bacon into quarter inch or so pieces.  Heat your pot over medium-high heat and fry the bacon until just barely crisp, or to how you like it.  Remove the bacon from the pot, along with most of the grease leaving about one tablespoon of grease in the pot.  Turn down the heat to medium.

Next add one tablespoon each of the onion, garlic powders to the pot and stir them about for about one minute. If you have a quarter teaspoon of red pepper flakes add this now.  If you are using fresh onion and garlic, cook until the onion is soft then add the garlic.  Do not burn your onion and garlic whether fresh or dried!  Ooh the boat is smelling even better now.  Anticipation for supper is rising.

Next add the chicken broth (either canned or using bullion cubes already mixed with water), canned tomatoes, quarter cup red wine, Italian seasoning (1 1/2 t or 1 t of oregano and 1/2 t of basil), half of the bacon, and three cups of water to the pot (I simply use the empty chicken broth can, fill it with water, and put two cans of water in).  Increase the heat and get the mix to a boil.  When boiling add a good two inch grab of dried spaghetti noodles to the pot.  Mix the noodles well into the pot.  Now, turn down the heat to low, cover the pot, and let the noodles cook for about 12 minutes.  Enjoy a glass of wine while you wait.  Stir the noodles occasionally while cooking to ensure there are no clumps and that they are cooking evenly.  When the noodles are cooked but still slightly chewy (al dente) remove the pot from the heat.

Next, add half of a block (about four ounces) of cream cheese and a good measure, if you have it, of Parmesan cheese.  Mix the cheeses well with the noodles, cover, and let the pot sit for five minutes.  This will thicken up the sauce.  Finally add the other half of the bacon to the pot along with some dried parsley and serve.  Viola!  You have a good creamy, comforting, tomato and bacon spaghetti that only used one pot.  Kids and adults love the taste and the easy clean up too.

We've enjoyed this recipe so much that we have experimented by adding prawns, left over grilled salmon, or even smoked salmon to this dish too. All of these "experiments" were hits with this recipe. When using cooked prawns, salmon, or smoked salmon make sure you add them when you add the cream cheese to the noodles.  Hmm?  I bet it would taste good with clams or mussels too.  Again, I would add them when adding the cream cheese to the noodles.  If you add the seafood too soon it would end up over-cooked.  Another time, to "dress it up" I topped the spaghetti off with some chopped sun dried tomatoes which added an extra special taste.  Enjoy!

Here's the full recipe in recipe form:
One-pot Boat Creamy Bacon Spaghetti
  • 5 strips (or more) bacon
  • 1 T onion powder -or- 1 onion, diced
  • 1 T garlic powder -or- 5 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1 can Italian style diced tomatoes, or diced tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 t Italian seasoning -or- 1 t dried oregano & 1/2 t dried basil
  • 1 can chicken broth -or- 2 chicken bullion cubes in 1 1/2 C water
  • 3 cups water
  • 2" diameter "grab" of dry linguine or spaghetti
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 4 ounces (half of an 8 ounce brick) cream cheese cut into chunks
  • 1 t dried fresh parsley
Cut the bacon into 1/4-inch pieces and cook in a pot over medium heat, stirring to separate the bacon into pieces. Cook until bacon to your desired doness, then remove to a paper towel lined plate.

Drain all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat from the pot and reduce the heat to low. Add the dried onion, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes, and cook, stirring frequently, for about 1 minute.  Don't burn it!  If you are using fresh onions, cook for 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent and soft.

Pour in the chicken broth, water, canned tomatoes, Italian seasoning and half of the reserved bacon to the pot.  Increase heat to medium high, and bring the mixture to a boil. When it is fully boiling, add in the noodles, cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 10-12 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the noodles are soft but chewy (al dente). Remove the pot from the heat.

Next stir in the grated Parmesan cheese and the cubed cream cheese, cover again and let stand for 5 minutes. When the 5 minutes are up, stir well to mix the noodles in the sauce. The melted cream cheese will thicken the sauce.

Serve with the remaining bacon and parsley on top.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Summer Trip Planning - Fuel Cost

World events and conditions are causing fuel prices to go up, up, up.  There's speculation that gasoline prices will hit $5.00 a gallon by the Memorial Day Holiday.  And, generally diesel prices are higher than gasoline prices.  Recently I was in Canada, and considering the dollar exchange and the cost per liter fuel prices were shocking, at $4.62 per gallon (US) of gasoline and diesel at the pump was $4.69 (US).  As a result, I've heard from plenty of boating pals that they are planning to do the "Staycation" and cruise locally versus going any far distance such as Desolation Sound or the Broughtons.  Several said instead of going north, they'd go south and spend time in the South Sound.

The MV Independence has a six cylinder, naturally aspirated Ford Lehman diesel.  Over the past 20 years of cruising I've found this motor to be not only reliable but economical too.  I monitor every trip by noting the RPMs, nautical miles, the average speed, and distance traveled and enter these numbers into my log book.  Then when I get fuel I can make a good estimation of miles per gallon per RPM.  Last year I made a conscious effort to reduce my cruising RPM by 100 from 1750 to 1650 RPMs.  Sure this slowed me down, but I made sure to plan my trip to take advantage of the current.  As a result I was able to cruise almost 600 nautical miles with an average speed of 5.92 knots and a 1.38 GPH.  If I would have stayed at 1750 RPM like I have in previous years a similar cruise had an average speed of 5.98 knots at 1.63 GPH.  Hmm?  100 RPMs lower, saving me 0.25 gallons per hour, but only an average speed difference 0.06 knots?  I'd say that cruising at a higher RPM is not worth the cost in fuel.  I went back through years and years of trips up the coast comparing the miles traveled, average speed, fuel consumed, and the results were the same year after year - lower RPMs = cost savings, without sacrificing much speed.

However "dock talk" spurred a curious assumption, "Sure you're traveling slower and saving fuel, but in the end you'll burn more fuel because it takes you longer to get there."  Could that be true?  Was I just fooling myself?  So once again I delved into the MV Independence log book, looked over 20+ years of nautical miles, speed, RPMs, and fuel fill ups and came up with the following table which proved to me that there was a "sweet spot" where RPMs, and fuel cost are optimized.  I thoroughly explained the table to my "dock talk doubters" and one-by-one they all agreed, you can save cost by traveling slower.  You just need to determine what is best for your boat.
Click on chart to get a better view

I then looked at the miles a typical trip to Desolation Sound (like last year's) would cost based on the calculations in my table.  Again, I said "Hmm?"  The cost varied from less than $600 to over a $1,000 based on an estimated fuel cost of $4.76 per gallon, and depending on RPM and currents.  So, will we stay close to home, or will we travel up the coast for our 23rd year?  We will keep an eye on fuel costs, and plan the tides and currents to and from our destination.  If the current is not right, we'll make plans to stay until it is, or plan a shorter cruising day.  I'd recommend that you too evaluate your RPM, speed, and fuel rate so you too can find your "sweet spot" and then plan the tides each day for each cruising leg so you can have a great economical summer cruise.  We will also mentally adjust to recognize that it is about the journey not the destination.  For me, the worst day cruising still beats the best day at work.

Oh, and one more thing... make sure your boat's bottom is clean and free of any growth.  Any growth such as mussels or barnacles growing off a transducer, propeller, or on your rudder will affect your speed. Now I always check my boat bottom prior to any summer cruise to ensure it is growth free.  Here's an excerpt from my log book describing what growth can do to speed.

July 24, 2000  4322.6
Saturday.  Day 1 of our trip north.  The whole thing started out a little stressed.  Skies were gray and the clouds low.  We got a wee bit of a late start, but it was okay.  As we headed up Budd Inlet we weren’t making the speed as I thought we should.  We were only doing 6 kts and the engine temp was a bit high.  So we pulled into Boston Harbor where I proceeded to scuba dive the boat.  My wife drove up from town to help and brought me a nice hot cup of coffee.  The prop was covered with barnacles, it took me 20 min. and 1,000lbs of air to scrape those bastards off.  Also the engine intake had a “beach ball” sized clump of mussels growing off of it.  That’s why the engine was running a bit hot.  We left Boston Hbr. about 0910 and immediately noticed an increase in speed of over 1kt. and the engine temp. was much cooler.  Besides it was better to see Mom again; the kids were much happier than leaving her at the dock this morning.  The morning clouds are burning off and it looks to be a nice day.  No wind.  So onward north again.

For more information on Tides and Current planning see my previous blog posts at:
Happy Cruising!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Summer Trip Planning - Be Prepared!

While the MV Independence has cruised many uneventful miles, there are on occasion when things do happen.  Here's a recent log entry that describes a troublesome day.

August 8, 2006
It rained during the night and early morning.  Skies are completely overcast and gray with a threat of rain.  Weather radio reports a small front passing through the lower mainlaind.  Ugh, that's us.

We pulled up anchor and left Squirrel Cove at 0604.  Cruising through Desolation was fine, there was a 10 knot east wind blowing.  We're making good time to Thulin Passage and past the Copelands, making over 6.5 knots.  After passing Hurtaldo Point and really getting in to Malaspina Strait the wind picked up making for a very bumpy ride.  The view down Malaspina Strait is filled with white caps from this east wind.  So we decided to go down the west side of Texada Island thinking the east wind will not bother us as bad.  Algerine Pass had some of the roughest water, three foot seas or more and a fresh east breeze of over 15 knots.  Sure enough we got in the lee of Texada and the wind lessened until we came around Favada Point when we got slammed with the wind again.  At 0900 I noticed the bilge light come on.  I lifted up the engine lid and sure enough there was water in the bilge but it was going down.  Soon it came on again at 1140.  This I knew was not good.  We were opposite of the Texada mines wharf going headlong right into a 2-3' chop.  This time I went down into the engine room to investigate.  To my horror I saw the main exhaust hose filling up the bilge with water - a lot of water.  I shut down the engine to investigate and immediately we were beam to in the rough waters.  I checked the exhaust hose and there was about a one inch hole!  I came out of the engine room, sweaty, bloody (I cut my thumb badly), and scared.  When I demanded a can of beer all I got was shocked looks, a beer at this time?!  I drained the beer into a container and proceeded to cut the can to act as a brace and patch.  I then wrapped the can with all the duct tape I had to seal the hole.  The kids downed some sodas so I had those cans too.  I had to be careful because the whole exhaust hose was brittle, but I got it patched.  But that's not all.  While we were beam to in the seas, our tow line to our 19' Zodiac had come undone.  Only a thin line was keeping the Zodiac tied to the MV Independence.  So, I quickly found a new tow hitch snap and got it re-tied.  Dealing with a bouncing Zodiac and boat in rough seas was enough for me.

I made for Davie Bay along the west shore of Texada Island under slow bell and dropped the hook in 60' of water in the lee of the island.  I was mentally and physically exhausted.  I drank the beer from earlier, took a quick nap, and thought about our predicament.  After about 90 minutes, we continued on our way down Sabine Channel to our planned anchorage at Boho Bay off of Lasqueti Island.  The wind and seas had abated quite a bit.  We anchored at 1725 in 48' of water at high tide.

Every 30 minutes I checked my patch and found that it was indeed holding; only 3 drips every 10 seconds.  I could live with that.  It's a nasty day filled with wind, rain, and worry. Average speed 5.3 knots, 10:30 cruising, ending engine hours 5549.6.
We made it back to our home port in Olympia without any further incident.  The patch held the entire distance and never dripped more than 2-3 drips every 10 seconds.  When I grabbed the patch while safely tied up to the dock, the whole section of exhaust hose crumbled around me, except the patched area.  I looked in horror what remained in my hands wondering how we made it home.  You could not tell there was an exhaust hose.  The consequences could have been deadly.  We could have sunk, or the exhaust fumes could have over come us.

In hindsight I and the MV Independence were lucky.  Investigation taught me that exhaust hose lasts about 10 years, and metal exhaust elbows about 4-6 years.  The exhaust system is a highly corrosive system that contains hot seawater and exhaust and it deserves annual inspection.  Now as part of my spring routine I take a ball-peen hammer and pound hard on the exhaust system every 2-3" from the engine manifold all the way to the stern.  The hammer should "bounce" off the hose and make a high pitched sound on any fiberglass items (exhaust elbow, water muffler, etc.) and metal items.  Any "thud" or reduced bounce gets extra attention.  Besides hammering the hose and fittings, I look for any sort of "salt weep," rust, or discoloration.  I make sure I have some stiff aluminum sleeves available, plenty of duct tape, Marine Tex epoxy, a big mat of fiberglass, and epoxy resin so I can make emergency repairs.  Oh, and I always make sure I have a few cans of beer. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Summer Trip Planning - Part 1, Planning Tides & Currents

Happy New Year!  Now that it is 2012 it's time to start planning your cruising adventures.  What do you need to have to start planning a successful cruise?  Here's my list of essentials:
  • Tide and Currents book for 2012.  For me the absolute best is "Ports And Passes."  I will use a highlighter to mark those tides/currents that are important for me.  Every year I attend the boat show to pick up the latest copy.
  • Paper charts - at least I start to make notations on them, pencil in compass headings, mark caution areas, mark anchorages, and fishing spots - prawning, crabbing, bottom fishing, or salmon.  A paper chart will rarely fail you.
  • Electronic charting software - I really like "Navionics." I can use this to get distance and compass heading data on my Android tablet.
  • Electronic current software - I like "Currents" by Yoyana for my Android tablet. It has current data from Olympia, WA to Hope Island, BC.  The BC current data is not as rich as the US current data.  I refer to this to get "up-to-the-minute" information on what the currents will be where I am cruising.  Such as, am I fighting a current and how much, or am I going "downhill" and how much am I getting pushed?
  • An electronic spreadsheet. I make a list of cruising routes and alternatives, waypoints, events (slack tide), miles, departure and arrival times, estimated speed, and time for each day cruising. My whole itinerary is in the spreadsheet.  Then I can do "what if" planning by changing the time or speed for a location I can see how it will affect the rest of my trip.  I can also refer to past years.

Optionally, I will also use some cruising guides and Internet tools to understand what the current status is of marinas and locations (restaurants/bars, repair facilities, stores, etc.).  Here are some of my favorites:

Based on all of the above information, the next and foremost thing I start looking for is favorable tides and currents.  I plan my trip around this information and then request the days off for my trip.  The tides and currents can also dictate where I will go and for how long.  The last two years we have cruised to Desolation Sound and not gone further north because of balancing our time with tides and currents.  Considering the cost of diesel fuel these days, I believe you very much need to consider how you can take advantage of the the tides and currents to push you along.  Last year taking advantage of tides and currents I was able to reduce my RPMs, travel at nearly the same speed, and save lots of money.  I cruised at an incredible 1.38 GPH!  I saved over 0.4 gallons per hour using the tides and currents - that's $1.56 of diesel fuel every hour. 

For me, I have six major tide and current areas that I have to watch - not only for the cruise up but for the return cruise too.  Depending on the tides and currents they may dictate which route I cruise.  These current areas are:
  • South Puget Sound - from Olympia to Seattle (Dana Passage, Balch Passage, Tacoma Narrows)
  • North Puget Sound - from Seattle to the Canadian Gulf Islands (Central Puget Sound, Admiralty Inlet, Deception Pass, Rosario Strait, San Juan Channel, Haro Strait)
  • North Gulf Islands - from Montague Harbor to Nanaimo (Dodd Narrows, Porlier Pass)
  • Georgia Strait - from Nanaimo to Desolation Sound.  Although the currents are not that strong, any little bit helps and the currents combined with the weather can make for uncomfortable cruising.
  • Desolation Sound - from the Yucultas to Johnstone Strait (Yucultas - Yuculta, Gillard, & Dent rapids, Greene Point, Whirlpool, Discovery & Seymore Narrows, Upper & Lower Rapids)
  • Johnstone Strait & Blackfish Sound (Johnstone Strait, Weynton Passage, Chatham Narrows)
Finally as I have mentioned in previous posts, the tides and currents will dictate where and when I want to fish for what.  For example, no use halibut fishing on Taylor Bank in Queen Charlotte Strait when there is a good flood or ebb, you won't be able to hit bottom or stay on location.  Also there's a good chance you'll lose a lot of bait and gear.  I look for a neap tide to fish here.  If there are none, I'll aim for a slack tide.  I like to go "catching" versus fishing.

So when do I believe are favorable days based on tides and currents to head north?
For Puget Sound (South & North): June 4-5, 18-19; July 2-3, 19-20; Aug. 4-5 (Ride the ebb currents all the way to Friday Harbor.)
Desolation Sound: June 23-24; July 23-24; Aug. 21-23 (Early morning slack at the Yuculta's then ride the ebb all the way through Greene Pt Rapids, Whirlpool Rapids and Johnstone Strait.)

Fishing for halibut?  July 11 (PM), 27 (PM); Aug. 10 (PM). (Unfortunately the prevailing northwest winds tend to kick up in the afternoons, so halibut fishing might not be so lucky this year.)

Hope this helps your 2012 summer cruise planning.  If you got questions or comments, leave a comment or email me.  In Part 2 of Summer Trip Planning I will discuss routes, anchorages, customs.  In Part 3, I will write about getting your boat ready for a trip.  In Part 4, provisioning.  Again, if you have helpful tips or comments, let me know.  Happy Planning!