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Preparations for Departure

Hi there and welcome to our Journal. This will give you some idea of what it was like for us to get Meriah ready for the long voyage ahead.

#1. January 1, 2000

Here we are at the end of what we hope will be our last charter season and we have moved from Pier 66 in Cowichan Bay to Maple Bay Marina for the winter. This is a much quieter location which is better protected from winter winds and seas. Meriah's masts have been removed for inspection and to take measurements for replacing all the standing rigging in the spring. She has been completely enclosed with a plastic cover stretched over PVC pipe hoops so that we can work on the deck area. Our plan is to remove the bowsprit which has some rot and replace it with a longer one in order to reduce a slight weather helm. The Sampson post also has to be replaced as well as the oak pad at the base of the mast which is stepped into a metal fitting on deck... and a new compression post must be installed underneath the mast in order to spread the load more evenly. Then as spring arrives and things warm up a bit, there will be an opportunity to recaulk and refinish the deck and cabin top. All this is a good beginning to the process of preparing Meriah for the challenges of ocean sailing which will far exceed even the worst conditions we have encountered here in the sheltered waters of Vancouver Island. We have recently replaced the Isuzu engine and rebuilt the transmission, so with all these improvements we'll be well on our way to getting ready for departure.

#2. May 1, 2000

Port Townsend... masts, rigging and measurement for a new suit of sails.

Unfortunately our charter business won't be sold until the end of this coming summer season, so we can't finish our work on Meriah until next we have to wait another year before we can sail away.

#3. January 1, 2001

To Stones Marina

March 15, 2001

Nicky has just finished sucessfully writing her Sail & Power Squadron "Advanced Piloting" and has also completed requirements for her "60 Ton Master's Ticket" with the Canadian Department of Transport. Sharing the study routine has been a good refresher for Larry, too... In fact, Coastal Navigation skills, even with GPS, can be more important than Offshore Navigation. There are no rocks, sandbars and breaking entrances offshore. So for the coast, precise navigation is of critical importance, while for offshore, along with celestial navigation as a backup for GPS, it is Seamanship that is more likely to be of critical importance.

Of course, we use our basic knowledge and skills of observation to be aware of and to avoid extreme weather conditions both on the coast and offshore. Technology also helps a whole lot with the availability of weatherfax and weather sites on the internet... So we're in a good position to avoid anything like the Perfect Storm. We will have a 20 foot diameter parachute anchor just in case, however, using the techniques of Lynn & Larry Pardy to safely heave to in extreme weather.

Our plan, in fact, is to take the offshore route from Cape Flattery to San Diego, probably about 200 miles offshore. We will then avoid the coastal fog banks which can be expected in September, not to mention coastal shipping, fishing vessels and gear or on the other hand being caught on a lee shore, unable to make it in through a breaking harbour entrance. Larry has grown up with most of this stuff in the Lower St. Lawrence and Prince Edward Island... offshore looks like a much more inviting choice when considering the normal coastal conditions.

It is here at the marina where we met up with our first offshore sailors, Keith & Carol aboard Kirsten-Jayne... it was great to discuss our plans and their experiences together and we ended up with a huge supply of used charts including Europe, the Mediterranean, the British Isles, and all the coast of North America Central America and the Caribbean. Our dreams of finding affordable charts had come true.

As for working on Meriah, Larry is busy grinding out the inside of her rusty old water tanks in preparation for lining them with glass-epoxy. We still have to finish off putting a "Paraseal" rubber compound in the deck seams as soon as the weather dries up a bit and then complete taking measurements for an upgraded steering system which will be installed next month. Our electrical system also has to be replaced, with a new Gel Battery bank of about 750 Amp Hours and 100 Amp hot rated engine driven alternator coupled with a fully monitored three stage regulator. Alternate charging systems will include Solar Panels and a free wheeling propeller shaft driven 75 Amp alternator. On top of all of this, we haul out at Canoe Cove at the beginning of May, taking a full month to strip down the hull, have the garboard seams redone and then carefully coating the hull below the waterline with copper antifouling. We have to establish a good base to protect the hull from Toredo Worms... they have a gourmet taste for unprotected wood and will tunnel their way through the grain of the planking, never touching the surface, but leaving it nearly hollow underneath. You can almost hear them chewing away as you try to sleep in the silence of a calm summer's night. So the copper coating is rather important on a wooden hull.

Our key to communication will be Amateur Radio also known as "Ham Radio". This will allow us to communicate around the world at any time by voice to other Ham operators, by "phone patch" via Ham operators to any telephone system in most parts of the world and, most important, by "digital connection" to the Internet (using our on board computer) with two way communication via e-mail. So we will be able to maintain contact with all of our friends out there and keep our web site updated. Through APRS (Automatic Position Reporting System) you will also be able to follow us in "real time" on the internet... This is a system where any transmission from our on board Ham radio is automatically recorded on our web site with GPS Latitude & Longitude as well as a short message.

So, that's it for now... Look out for our next update.

#4. May 1, 2001

At last, spring is here, the weather is improving and its time to get moving. Goodby to our new friends in Nanaimo and off we go to Canoe Cove, near Sidney.

We motor sailed from Nanaimo, departing at Noon in order to avoid the 8 knot opposing tidal current in Dodd Narrows about 6 miles to the south. No problem as we arrived about an hour later when the tide was slack (no current at change of tide). We did have a problem an hour later, however, when an overtaking fishing vessel towing a herring skiff cut across our bows. With the heavy aluminium skiff about to smash into Meriah's side, we had to take evasive action in order to avoid a collision. The fisherman at the wheel opened his window and shouted out that "He was going in a straight line, and therefore we should keep out of his way". Seems as if he had no idea that an overtaking vessel must give way to the vessel being overtaken. Perhaps the fisherman was on a line to the next GPS waypoint and would get lost if he altered course. Moral to the story?... Always assume that the other guy does not know, understand or care about the rules.

We ended up spending the night at Musgrave Landing at the SW end of Salt Spring Island. Gale warnings were out with SE winds of up to 40 knots predicted... not very comfortable conditions for our planned stopover at Cowichan Bay. A great opportunity, though for our Victoria to clamber around the shore gathering odds and ends for her collection of treasures and for all of us a peaceful night as the winds howled through the trees above us.

By noon it was all over and just a short trip into Cowichan Bay and our old mooring off the gas dock at Pier 66 Marina. Our friend, Harry from Sidney just happened to be visiting the Bay today and was on the dock to greet us. We had to pick up a pile of equipment and gear left in storage at Pier 66... we had no idea how we were going to deal with it...hardly enough space for it all aboard Meriah...and then, out of the blue, Harry not only offers us a garage at his place in Sidney, but also offers to drive it there in his truck. What is the nautical version of horseshoes?!

While in the Bay we also had a chance this evening to spend time our dear friend, Herb Rice, who lives and works in Cowichan Bay creating beautiful Coast Salish woodcarvings , panels and totems filled with the spirit of his People. A special carving is in the works for the front face of Meriah's steering pedistal.

Tomorrow morning its back to business, with Nicky and Victoria taking the bus back to Nanaimo to pick up the car, while I sail Meriah on my own to Canoe Cove to have the engine checked out. We'll all meet there in the late afternoon to prepare for haul-out first thing Tuesday morning.

May 6, 2001

Here we are, hauled out in the yard of Canoe Cove Marina and scraping all the old copper bottom paint off Meriah. We'll check all the hull seams and repair anything that needs attention. This is also when we are finishing our decks, repainting the hull, making some interior alterations for storage, installing electronics, then finally, working on the engine before launching at the end of the month. Looks like the new electrical and steering systems will have to wait until June.

It's already clear that the caulking of the garboard seam (at the keel) is in poor shape, so we're in the process of cleaning it out completely and having the whole seam renewed. After cleaning, we start with a coating of linseed oil and then hammer in lengths of rolled cotten and then oakum to act as a backing for the seam filler. We will re-fill the seams with a mixture of fibergum and portland cement which should provide very durable and trouble-free results.

May 10, 2001

Now the fun begins. We've just discovered some serious rot in Meriah's stem at the waterline, likely the result of some sort of collision many years ago...a piece of the stem had obviously been repaired at this point, but the interior damage was probably not obvious at the time. So we've removed a 3 foot section of the stem and started scraping away the "mud" which had once been solid wood. To our relief, thanks to George Bruigom, the builder, all of the planking and timbers here had been coated with a rubber compound and so the rot was limited to only this one piece of the stem...Whew! Now's the time to find these problems, though. We don't want to discover this kind of thing the hard way.

Still a big job ahead, though, now there's a big hole in Meriah's we've booked an extra month ashore at Canoe Cove... Anyhow, we'll be keeping you posted; time to get to work.

#5. July 10, 2001

Well, it was a busy two months and now Meriah is back in the water with a new stem and completely refinished hull under the waterline. All that work, yet none of it to be seen! Very little on deck has been completed, so it looks as if we've done nothing at all after two month's of hard work.

In fact, most of our energy went into replacing approximately ten feet of Meriah's stem...a difficult task considering that all the bad wood had to be cut away and new timber replaced entirely from the outside. The edge nailed and glued planking up forward which locks in the stem could not be opened up without structural damage. This meant that the inner portion of the new stem would have to be made in three long pieces with a centre key piece spreading the two side pieces into the inside ends of the planking. All of this is glued together with epoxy and then the new outer portion is through bolted and glued to the outside in one piece. Shaping all of these pieces requires a lot of skill, however, and we were lucky enough to find Thomas Scheinpflug who had spent three years helping build the 125 foot schooner, Pacific Grace, and was now preparing to build his own vessel near Sidney. As you can see from the photos below, he did a great job and Meriah is now as good as new.

A lot of our time also went into scraping down to bare wood, and inspecting all of the underwater portions of the hull. Some seams had to be repaired, a sonar transducer and water temperature sensor installed, propellor renewed and most important of all, the garboard seam at the keel completely cleaned out and redone. We were also very fortunate to find Ted Knowles available to do the recaulking job for us in the proper tradional manner with cotton and then oakum... almost a lost art with the sound of the wooden mallet ringing out over the marina. We then finished the seams by filling them with a mixture of Fibergum and Portland Cement.

So, with a fresh coat of copper paint, Meriah was back in the water exactly a month behind schedule. Its not good for a strip planked hull to be out of the water too long...and we were pushing the envelope. Lots of work still to be done on deck and with interior renovations, however, so we have booked the months of July and August at Deep Cove Marina, on the Saanich Inlet not far fron Sidney. This makes it easy for our friend "Harry" to carry out interior renovations and for us to take care of all the unfinished business of getting Meriah prepared for offshore. Hope we're ready to set sail in September.

One thing for sure, though, it looks as if we've missed our window for going south this year... so all the more time for exploring the coast of British Columbia as we become familiar with all the new gear and equipment and attend to the development of new routines.

#6. September 10, 2001

Found a place at Brentwood Bay for a couple of months... Brentwood Inn Marina. There was always a nice swell coming in to Deep Cove but we really needed still waters to lift the engine up into the pilothouse and secure it on temporary footings. While Nicky continues preparing the cabin, deck and bulwarks for painting and oiling, Larry is crawling underneath the engine and scraping 30 year's worth of greasy, oily crud out of the bilges... up to 4 inches deep in some places! While we're in there we'll also be replacing the old engine mounts and oil drip pan, then securing the inside lead ballast so it can't move around. All of this is taking more time than anticipated, of course, so we probably won't be out of here until the end of October. At least the weather has been great, but we would rather be sailing.

We'll have another update in a few weeks.

October 10, 2001

So now we've decided to stay here for the winter. Brentwood Bay is well located for access to marine equipment and hardware, not to mention the Ham Radio course which begins in January... and only a quick ferry ride from Brentwood to Mill Bay and our old base at Cowichan Bay. Most important for wintering, we also have comfortable shelter here from the seasonal Southeasterly gales and Westerlies which usually follow.

No doubt we'll be heading out a few times this winter to test our new 24 foot diameter Para-Tech parachute sea anchor. It is most important to practice deployment and retreival in heavy weather conditions prior to going offshore. All of this is good insurance in case we meet up with "The Perfect Storm 2" or any of its less intense cousins. Anyone who might be curious about the use of Parachute Anchors should check out Lin & Larry Pardey's book, "Storm Tactics Handbook".

We still have to put together our new instrumentation and electrical systems and then work on upgrading our steering systems. With all of this it won't be long before we suddenly discover that Spring has arrived.

Up until now we've been using borrowed scanners to bring photos to this site, so there have been lots of delays in keeping up with some great action pictures. Soon we'll have our own scanner installed and ready for instant uploads.

Oh, yes. Today is Nicky's birthday and our wedding anniversary!

January 10, 2002

 Well, our Christmas visits are over and the New year is with us. We've had a good taste of winter here at the old Brentwood Inn Marina, with winds that would blow your socks off frequently coming in out of the south... nothing that extra lines couldn't take care of, however. Our bit of excitement for the season was the near sinking of one of the boats next door. We quickly got a rescue team of dockside residents together and managed to keep the vessel from going down.

April 20, 2002

Nicky has been working through the winter on her ham radio licence, swimming laps or playing water polo at the Commonwealth Pool and introducing Victoria, among other things, to a great kids' swimming programme. Larry has been spending most of his time re-installing the engine and wiring in a completely new electrical system with the professional assistance of Mike Reed, a contractor from Vancouver. With spring we'll soon be ready to move out and continue our final preparations with the installation of new steering and electronic navigation systems. Nicky has written her ham radio exams and come away with an Advanced Ticket with Honourable Mention! Pretty good for someone who never had anything to do with electronics.

#7. May 24, 2002

Today we sailed Meriah up to Maple Bay. Only a short run to Cove Yachts who have a great marine railway right next door to Maple Bay Marina. This is where we do the final check of the bottom below the water line... in fact, renewing all of our through hulls and seacocks, another coat of copper paint and copper sheeting above the galley sink outlet where drain "goo" had collected on the hull and eliminated last year's coating of bottom paint.

Later, at Maple Bay Marina, we take care of installing the new radar, a more efficient mechanical cockpit steering system and the beginning stages of our inside hydraulic steering system. A vessel next door gave us about a dozen sandbags used for weights on a new deck... all it took was an inflatable wading pool and Victoria had the greatest dockside sandbox she could immagine.

# 8. July 15, 2002

A pleasant trip sailing Meriah to Boot Cove, Saturna Island to visit and leave her with our friends, Bob & Bev Bruce for a few weeks. We fly to Quebec and join the Cliff Cottages Reunion at Cacouna. This is where Larry grew up in a house on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Lower St. Lawrence River and where Larry spent most of his time either on the beach or out sailing his beloved "Redwing", a 30ft Gaspé fishing schooner.

# 9. August 15, 2002

Now we're well rested and on our way sailing back to Canoe Cove to finish minor repairs to the cockpit area, install solar panels on top of the pilothouse and to take care of the final stages of installing our hydraulic steering with its autopilot. This is also an opportunity to finish off Meriah with the oiling and painting of her topsides. She looks beautiful! At the end of it we had a rather unfortunate experience with Canoe Cove Marina... It became clear that they had a reputation for charging top rates for inferior workmanship or excessive shop time. We were badly burned and virtually blew away our provisioning budget. Our hydraulic system never did work and we ended up without the advantage of an autopilot. BEWARE!

September 9, 2002

Finally, its time to sail the 50 miles around to Victoria's Inner Harbour where we have made arrangements to have the Ham Radio and Pactor digital system (weatherfax & e-mail) properly installed with a rather innovative antenna running from the spring stay half way between the masts down to a bridle at the base of the mizzen...everything is grounded to a keelbolt and we're ready to transmit. What a rush when another vessel in San Francisco Harbour comes back to say that it sounds as if we're right on top of them. IT WORKS!

At anchor in Victoria's Oak Bay ..... January 1, 2000 to now, September 15, 2002 ..... Almost two years later, and now we're nearly prepared to head out into the Pacific and down the coast to California. Our first stop will be Morro Bay where we will wait until the end of the hurricane season before continuing down to Mexico and then the Panama Canal. Hectic times just now getting ready for departure; not much time for updates. We'll get back soon to fill in the blanks and tell you about the first days of our voyage. Too bad we haven't had any time to further explore the coast of British Columbia, but we have to get out of here before the Pacific storms are upon us.

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