Rat, Fire, Cockroach

Okay, don’t freak out, but the story that follows will let you know that it is not always paradise in a sailors world.

Living aboard a sailboat is usually fairly stress free. You may have to weather the storms, so to speak, but for the most part what’s stressful about looking at water and floating on it while wandering.

Well, this summer we returned to our floating home in mid August and have opted to stay at a marina for the season working on projects. There are always plenty of projects to be done on a boat and the list is never ending, no different than a land home.

View across the water at Hampton

This year I (G) redid our dodger (aka windshield) with new strata glass. I also made a new seat back for the helm with P’s help cutting the wood needed for it. I also made a seat cover for one of our inside seats and made a few new cushion covers (they tend to get salted up and drab looking after a few years). P has been working on many projects including installing AGM batteries, updating our lithium batteries, troubleshooting and installing a new fix to our starboard starter which has never been reliable, replacing a few rigging lines, repairing a winch that decided to freeze up, repairing hatches that have started to leak, replacing old mirrors with new ones, among many other small jobs. He’s also ordered and received many replacement parts and items that have worn out or broke (swim fins, paddle for paddle board, dinghy motor and dinghy).

One way to get up the mast
Our rigger up the mast again
Our main sail heading off to be restitched

We’ve kept ourselves too busy to sail anywhere. One of the most rewarding projects was getting some items off the boat that we no longer need or that we don’t use while in the islands of the Caribbean. We donated 3 large bags of goods to Goodwill and gave other items to fellow boaters.

Some things we wanted to keep, but wanted off the boat to give us more space. Our folding bikes were only used once in the last 4 seasons while down in the islands. We don’t want to get rid of them as we enjoy using them while cruising the east coast, but they take up a lot of room on the boat that we’d like back. So I drove them to our new storage unit in Michigan for the winter and we plan to pick them up again next summer which also gave me an excuse to visit my son and his family.

Quick pic before heading back to the boat

Joni likes Grammy’s cookies
Joni and Grammy selfie fun
Joni is fascinated by the bobcat digging outside the window

That explains our purpose for staying put this summer. We have enjoyed getting to know some of the locals to Hampton, Virginia. One couple actually lent us their car for 10 days. They are also sailors prepping their boat for a future passage south. How nice it that.

Anyway on with the stories that go with the title of this blog post.

About 3 weeks ago I was staying up late after P had gone to bed. It was a full moon and about 10:30 at night. I had the windows and doors closed. I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye while reading. I looked out and noticed an unusual shadow near the entry to our cockpit. The next thing I saw was was a rat stepping onto the cockpit cushions. OMG, I yelled for Paul to wake up. Told him we had a rat on the boat. He got up and made a big racket with our sliding door which scared the thing off. It lept off the stern doing a swan dive and rapidly swam away. Paul felt it was actually a muskrat. Whatever it was, I slept with all windows closed that night and a few nights following.

I know many boaters here that sleep with their doors open and hatches open. Some even leave their boats unattended for days with everything open (very trusting souls). After this experience I’ll be sure to at least have my screens shut if hatches are open at night. This was the first stressful experience of this sort in our 5 years living aboard.

Two weeks ago while we were getting the car loaded for me to drive to Michigan we smelled smoke. Paul had pulled through 2 new wires just the day prior so we worried that some connection got damaged inside the hull. The smoke dissipated and stopped so we really weren’t sure what it was. We immediately unplugged us from shore power. Paul stayed behind to continue his projects so he kept an eye on things. Over the next few days he noticed the smell of something burning a few times, but only when he used significant wattage by operating an appliance. After I arrived back he finally found the culprit, the main ELCI breaker. It clearly wasn’t protecting us. So now another new item got added to his to do list.

Burnt breaker

I was just grateful that he found the source and I could sleep again. The new and improved breaker was ordered and P is currently installing it as I write this post. Whew.

There are cockroaches at this marina and they do spray to keep them under control but there are still a number around. We’ve seen them down the pier and I’m very careful that all food that comes on board immediately goes into glass ball jars or is stowed in heavy duty bins. Friends of ours got cockroaches aboard their boat while here so I’ve been extra cautious.

Three nights ago I reached into our cupboard to get a Seltzer Charger for my spritzer bottle. These are not edible, but I’ve never removed them from their small cardboard box. When I reached in for a charger out came a cockroach. It immediately went under my seat in our main salon. I was so upset. How these things even manage to get on board is a feat in itself. The only way on is to climb along one of the lines attached to the pier and then make their way inside. Who knows how long it had been on board. It was in the cupboard where we keep the dog food and everything in that cupboard is in containers so there couldn’t have been much for it to live on, but it may have found the odd dog kibble.

I went online right away and found a recipe that called for a mixture of borax and sugar. I prepared it and placed it in 2 lids and put the lids into the 2 areas we keep food in the salon. The next morning it was clear that something had disturbed the poison. We haven’t seen the creepy thing since. I’m trusting it’s dead somewhere. I’m sure we’ll come across it’s corpse some day. Meanwhile the poison is staying in place until well after we leave just to be sure.

I’m hoping that superstition holds and now that we’ve had 3 stressful events we are done. We certainly don’t need any more unexpected surprises this close to our departure planned for November 2nd. More on that in our next post. Stay tuned.

My Year in the West End

The West End of Vancouver BC is know for it’s colourful community of people. While there are many gay and lesbian and other labels living there, there is also a lot of elderly, young families, and working people of all nationalities.

I decided to join the community when I rented a 1 bedroom apartment located in basically the middle of the area. It was located a 10 minute walk from Stanley Park (a great section of land filled with ancient Cedar trees, paths that lead to various beaches and gardens, and just plain nature at it’s finest).

Walking another 5-10 minutes in the opposite direction from the apartment lead me to the heart of downtown. 10 minutes north or south lead me to the Pacific Ocean. Who wouldn’t want to live there?

I left the boat for a position on one of the largest software projects the province has ever seen. It was exciting and I felt that I could make a difference with my experience and skill set. I believe I did although I didn’t see it to the end.

What I do want to share is some of what I experienced while being back on land.

I wanted to check off another thing on my bucket list – I chose an apartment on the 25th floor. I’m not particularly fond of heights, however I do enjoy a home with a view so this met my criteria. It overlooked the city and faced east where I could watch the sunrise many mornings. Check, check. To my left and right off the balcony I could see a glimpse of water and to the north, mountains. Check, check.

View from apartment

It was small, the bedroom fit only a bed and 2 night stands. It’s a good thing I wasn’t needing to share the closet because it was tiny. There was what was referred to as a den (no windows). I used it as a place to keep some clothing and a spare TV so I could watch what I wanted if my dad came to visit. He’s a sports fan and I prefer DIY home shows or Vet on the Hill so I was glad for the spare TV although I only used it a handful of times throughout the year.

I moved in only a few pieces of furniture from our storage unit. Only 1/2 my sectional sofa would fit, so half was what I lived with. It worked out well as it served as a spare bed when my dad came for a visit. He came 3 or 4 times throughout the year and I really enjoyed the time we got to spend just the two of us. We created many fond memories together.

Dad English Bay

Last summer he came without a walker and discovered he just couldn’t get around as much as he’d like with just a cane. The next visit he had his walker and got out and about nearly every day. On one visit he had a bad case of gout in his knee, so walking was near impossible. I took him to the emergency room at St Paul’s hospital. I have to say they put him on the fast track and he was treated quickly and with much respect. Kudo’s go out to the people who work at that ER, they were absolutely amazing to watch work.

Dad with his new walker
Jamis and Maddie visited
Dad, me and Charlie Denman and Davie

His next to last visit was spent watching playoff NHL hockey. Growing up in a hockey family and raising a son who played the game, I must admit I got into it again. There I was saying – how’d the ref miss that? It was fun and I cherish the time I took to sit and watch with my dad.

His last visit was a little hectic. Paul and Charlie were also home from the boat so the apartment was full. We all worked around each other. Since I was in my last month of work, I was very busy and pushed myself through the days to get home at a decent hour when I could. I felt like dad didn’t get the full attention from me he deserved, but I needed to let that go. It is what it is or rather it was what it was.

Living in the West End allowed me to have my dad come when he could and he had places he could walk to while I was at work. It worked out well for both of us.

Other things I loved – there was a dog park just 2 blocks from the apartment, so when Charlie was in town (~4 of the months I lived there) I figured it would be great for him. I guess I should have consulted him – he wanted to go anywhere but the dog park. So instead we took him for many a walk to Stanley Park and near the water. Every time we walked near a marina he’d pull like a sled dog trying to take us down a ramp to find Blue Sky.

I got together regularly with my good friend Michael for walks. Over the Christmas season we decided to go to Vandusen Botanical Gardens to see the festival of lights. It was super cold that day (I think the coldest of the winter). In fact, speaking of winter, Vancouver typically gets one or two days of snow per year. This year we had nearly 2 months with snow on the ground. There was so much snow that I had to break down and buy winter rain boots. In all my years living at the west coast, I never needed them. I couldn’t get through this winter without them. They saved me from arriving to work with soaking wet feet many days.

Festival of lights
Robson Square

I also got together at least once a month with my good friend Laurie. We’ve been friends for more than 50 years (not a typo). We did some fun things as well like going to Whistler one weekend for the Every Woman event. It’s an event where you can take part in a different exercise class or lecture every hour for 2 days. We filled our schedules some events together and some apart. We were on our own for meals so we’d catch up on what each of us had learned in between.

Laurie makeover

When I was away at Christmas visiting Blue Sky, Laurie actually stayed at the apartment for a few days while her son was in St Paul’s hospital. Things worked out rather magically as I’d already cleared customs when she called and asked if she could stay and get the keys. Kindly my resident manager had agreed to let her into the suite and I had a spare set of keys in the nightstand.

I was able to see her parents latest venture in the arts by going to the Naked Stage production of Loves, Losses and what I wore (I can’t recall the exact name of the play, but it was something like that). Very interesting where there is no set, just actors on stage voicing their parts.

And of course she invited me to the family thanksgiving dinner which was quite the crowd. She joined Paul and I for a night of fireworks and said she’d never do that again, which I don’t blame her. It was quite the long haul getting her back on the train with the line up around the block.

When I first arrived I signed up for a creative writing class and a calligraphy class. I discovered I love writing and I’m less of a fan of doing calligraphy. In the winter I joined the YMCA and took in various fitness classes. I lasted about 3 months when work started getting in the way and I was no longer getting my money’s worth so stopped going. I will say that I enjoyed it though.

Vancouver Spring blooms

Lastly in the spring on a whim I signed up for a learn to run clinic at the Running Room on Denman and Georgia. Although their was a running room closer to my work, I chose this location as they typically do their runs through Stanley Park. I made some good friends and finished the 10 weeks running a 5 km Pride run. This run kicked off the West Ends Pride week. I missed the parade this year due to moving out, but did enjoy part of the parade last year when I first moved in.
Pride Parade 2016

I learned quickly that it was faster to walk to the train than wait for the bus so I typically got in 4,000+ steps in before starting work each day. On nicer days I’d walk all the way down Nelson street and across the Cambie street bridge to work. It took about 45 minutes and added another 1,500 steps to my commute.

Morning comute – walking over Cambie Street Bridge

Some Friday’s I’d walk along the sea wall from work and stop at Granville Island for dinner before taking the water taxi across to the Aquatic Centre stop, then walk along the beach to my street. I’d often take in the sunsets on this walk and I’d look over at the boats out on the water or anchored and think fondly of my life aboard Blue Sky.
Walking home along the water

Mostly I found I was torn between two places in my heart. I wanted to work and live in the city I loved since I first saw it when I was eight years old. And I wanted to be on Blue Sky living the life of a sailor. I couldn’t have them both.

In the end living on Blue Sky won out. I gave my notice at work and began the process of planning to move away from Vancouver.

In the last weeks of July 2017 we began the process of packing up the apartment and downsizing our storage. Paul and I, along with the help of Keith, Taryl and Taryl’s dad Ken moved everything out of storage. Some of it stayed in Canada with Keith and Taryl. Some of it went to donations. Some of it went to Russell the Junk Man. And some of it came with us on a road trip to Michigan in an 11 ton, 26’ uHaul which turned me into someone who has a bigger respect for truckers.

Our uHaul loaded

Our new smaller storage unit is now in Michigan. It is costing us 1/3 less than what we were paying to store our stuff in the suburbs of Vancouver. We still have more than we’d hoped but we have what we want to keep.

We don’t know where we’ll end up living when we are ready to move back to land but we do know that it won’t be the west coast. So until we figure it out we have our things a little closer to the boat so we can access them when we visit our son Lindsay and his family.

For now I am happily nesting again on Blue Sky. I’m cleaning and sorting and generally making myself at home in the best condo money can buy. I have a 360 water view and when I don’t like where I am, I can move and I can move without renting a Uhaul. What a concept.

Charlie back on board in Hampton Virginia

Finding things to do

In March and April I (Gwyn) began to feel restless with my days. Adult coloring books weren’t doing it for me so much any more. I spent many a day cleaning beaches as my search for what to do with myself stirred within me.

Three years of sailing is truly a dream come true. I’m grateful for every moment, the friends, the night watches, being alone with the universe in a very special way. So why was my soul nagging at me that there is something more. I kept telling myself to be grateful, not worry about something more, but the nagging continued.

I missed my family, I missed land life, I missed working. Yes, I said that and I began to realize that I truly needed to work some more. I was not/am not ready to retire. I wanted to find a way to go back.

On a whim, I found a job online that seemed like a perfect fit. So I talked with Paul and pondered whether or not to apply. Days of thoughts overtook me and before I knew it, I’d composed a cover letter and updated my resume and sent it off figuring I’d see what happened. As Paul said, you can always change your mind if it gets to a point where they offer you a job.

Weeks went by and I did not hear back. We began the process of planning our trip back with the Salty Dawgs. No sooner did we sign up for the rally back to the US, that I was contacted for a phone interview.

That phone interview led to a Skype interview a week later, then a request for references. Then nothing heard for another 2 weeks. I figured someone else got the job. I started planning for a summer visit with family, we were happily gathering with the Dawgs for our trip to the US, and BOOM, the job offer arrived.

Now it was on me, to say yes or no. Further discussion ensued with Paul and I. He wanted to continue to sail, I wanted to take the job. The job is temporary – 18 months. I could return to sailing then if it fits. Paul and Charlie would spend the summer in Vancouver with me. We’d figure out the rest. We’ve lived in separate cities before and made it work. We can do this. So we did.

It’s taken me awhile to post this, because I wanted to settle in and focus on the new job and adjusting to life back on land.

Do I miss sailing – yes. I know I miss the big blue now that Paul has set off with the Salty Dawg Rally back to the BVI. He’s got crew going with him this time. I am wishing I was there to do my part, but I trust that the crew he’s signed on will succeed and Blue Sky will get them back to the Caribbean safely.

I’ve already got plans to visit them in the Caribbean over Christmas vacation. Paul and Charlie will return to Vancouver next summer for 3-4 months. Time will fly as it always does.

So there you have it. This is where we are at. Paul and Charlie returned to Blue Sky in Hampton in September. A discovery was made that the boat took an indirect lightening hit while he was here this summer. Paul scrambled for 2 months to do all the repairs in time to get her ready for the passage south. He did it all on his own, replacing nearly every electronic on the boat. He continues to amaze me.

As for me, I’m getting busier with my new job and enjoying the challenges within it. I will continue to post about life on land, while Paul will post when he can about life on the water.

Sailing isn’t done for us, we are just doing it a little differently for a little while.

Charlie on board
Charlie on board

Off to Bristol, First Step

Time was up in Hampton but the weather window looked terrible so we cancelled the direct to Block Island/Bristol plan (plan A) and opted for the “Let’s dash up to Cape May and see how it looks” plan (plan B). Of course doing that seems safer running up the Chesapeake instead of venturing out into blue water but it adds 100+ miles and the stress of many commercial ships in a small place (plan C). And since when are forecast severe thunderstorms and tornado watches actually safe (the morning forecast)? So Plan B won and outside we went. We set off on Thursday at 9:30, fully fueled, and had a great 2+ knot ebb current push us out of the Chesapeake as we headed NNE. Gotta love it. This is going to be a great trip.

Remind me never to think that. After getting out of the Chesapeake dodging freighters, carriers, and destroyers (stay 1,000 yards away or they get heavily on your case – poor fishermen had to scatter), we meandered up the Delaware coast expecting the grib/NOAA forecast wind to veer east and thus provide us with a reasonable close reasch sail up the coast. Alas, methinks in nautical terms, forecast = dream, similar to the 15 knot forecast really meaning 25 knots. Soon we were blissfully hammering our way into steep 3 foot short period chop with winds on the nose (NNE not east) and motors roaring. You see, we couldn’t really “sail” i.e. “go where the wind takes you” without risking spending a significant amount of time in forecast 20+ knot winds (remember the translation = 30+ knot winds). So we tore along at 5.5 knots (normally 7.5 knots in flat seas) towards our destination as the captain embraced the oil sheikhs feeding the motors in what should have been a green boat.

But the sunset (sorry no pictures) and just after sunset were amazing. Did you see Jupiter rising with Venus? Jupiter is spectacularly bright and Venus is very close. By June 30 they will appear as a double star (hope it is clear that night). As it was I was awed by the sight but had to wait until we got to internet range to know what I had just seen. Pictures from a bouncing boat were poor so no photos.

Luckily, this bashing and crashing in waves at right angles due to the partial wind shift lasted a mere 9 hours, but that was enough for Charlie to look quite forlorn, refuse to eat, and give you the evil eye that says “how do you expect me to poop in this bucking bronco?”. But fate gave us relief with the predicted wind shift finally showing up settling us in to a lovely beam reach with no engines – catamarans just love beam reaches. As if to say I am sorry for the last 9 hours beating your brains out, mother nature upped the ante and made up for the late wind shift by bringing in the higher winds earlier than forecast (such is sailing – forget the computer and all that fancy stuff and just sail in whatever you are in!). So now we were tearing along between 8 and 9 knots directly into waves that had not quite gotten the message that the wind had shifted. Yee Haw – now this is exciting! At least we were going the right direction with a 20-25 knot wind (which wasn’t supposed to show up for another 5-6 hours accompanied by 30+ knot gusts).

Red Sky in the morning = run for cover in Cape May
Red Sky in the morning = run for cover in Cape May

Well there is always a bright side. Right? Sure was in this case. With all that great speed and the bashing our brains out, our arrival time originally planned as 2 pm was improving dramatically dropping to 1 pm, noon, 10, then 9 am!. Wow, if you have to be plowing spray all over the boat, it is nice to know there is a benefit. Our arrival dropped dramatically from the initial planned 2 pm to an arrival at 8:30 am. Yah! We beat the big winds, in theory at least. Those big winds were to get all over us at 10 to 11 am but true to form, they arrived at 7:30 am leaving the captain with a “do I reef? I really should, but I’m going to take the sail down in half an hour, but…”. Number one rule of the sea, if you think it, do it. In this case, with all sheets well eased, we tore along at 9 knots to our drop sail point and did exactly that. Then we had a twisty-turny gallop through the breakwater as the following sea kept encouraging the boat, now a motor boat, to turn left or right and head directly for the breakwater (following big seas always want to turn you in a direction you don’t want to go – especially in a breakwater channel that is rapidly shoaling). But we got through with the tired captain called on the new autopilot for some help and it performed admirably keeping us heading more us less straight despite the violent yawing.

Cape May – sweet Cape May. Found an anchor spot but current was opposite of wind so anchoring was quite confusing but we settled ok on the first try. Then we settled back to 25-30 knot winds tearing at the sails as the captain packed them away to reduce windage. Then the rain hit, big time. How perfect can you get? Settled in snugly in a protected harbor with 30 knot winds licking at the boat, rain slashing by. The anchor didn’t budge an inch as we tucked in for the night. Lesson learned – sail what you are given, stay happy, always have a good harbor as an out.

We will head to Bristol tomorrow. Or may not. Let’s see what the forecasters say, then maybe we will poke our nose out into reality and check for ourselves. Meanwhile we are hunkered down with some big thunderstorms that have marched up the Chesapeake slipping by us with much rumbling but a couple looking like they are taking direct aim for us. Thanks mother nature for washing much of the salt off the boat. For now, we are happy not to have taken the Plan A or Plan C route. Love our life.


I started to feel frustrated with store bought crackers. They always seem to have too much fat or bad stuff in them and if they are ‘gluten free’, they are expensive. I did some research on line and found this recipe on the ohsheglows.com blog. I was busy making granola and had the oven hot, so mixed up a batch of these to pop in the oven when the granola was done. They were super easy to and delish with a little olive tapenade. I had to stop myself from eating the whole batch.

½ cup brown rice flour
¾ cup almond flour
2 TBSP nutritional yeast
¼ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp kosher salt (I only had sea salt, so used that)
½ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried rosemary
Scant ¼ tsp baking soda
2 TBSP sesame seeds
¼ cup water
½ tsp olive oil

-Preheat oven to 350 and prepare baking sheet with parchment paper (or use a silicone baking sheet)
-Mix together dried ingredients in a medium sized bowl
-Add water and olive oil and kneed/press together with hands until it forms a ball
-Place ball on parchment or mat and roll with a rolling pin until 1/8” thick. Sprinkle with salt if desired (I put some Himalayan salt on top and slightly pressed it into the dough so it wouldn’t fall off)
-Bake for 18-20 minutes or until slightly golden and crisp (mine got crisp more than golden)
-Let cool 10 minutes and store in an air tight container (or serve them at your next sundowner get together)