Finally the time came to leave the laid back island of Sointula for home. It’s a shame as the weather had just picked up and sunshine was planned for the next few weeks. As you can see below the autumnal colours were just coming into play and I would have loved to spend another month there.
We stowed everything away on the boat, the bikes where the last items to go below, wrapped up in bags I made from the old staysail and we made our way to the airport in Port Hardy.
Jim, who is looking after our boat for the next 6 months kindly drove us and our bags to the ferry port where we caught a boat over to Port McNeill on Vancouver island. From there we took a small 16 seater plane down to Vancouver Airport (south).
It wasn’t easy to catch a plane home the same day due to ferry/plane schedules so we opted to have a night/morning in Vancouver City and check it out. Below is the Gas man, apparently called this because of his long epilogues, I wonder if this has a connection with the Irish term ‘A gas man’ This is the steam powered clock in the city’s Gas district on the waterfront. And these guys must make most Canadians groan in the way I do whenever an American film on the UK has the obligatory red bus/ telephone box and beat bobby. There’s no shortages of tourist gift stores in this area, much like every city we have ever visited. However a lot of the gifts were high quality and if I was richer, everyone might have got Vancouver branded clothing for christmas.So we had a pleasant dinner in a grand railway station building at the Waterfront station then headed off to the airport where we got a budget flight home on Air Transat. The 9 hour flight went quite quickly and we were soon back in dreary Manchester on the train home to Liverpool.
It was nice to be home, but I returned from my one year absence to no telephone/internet, no hot water or heating and a too high percentage of rugs and clothes destroyed by moths.
Communications systems should be back online on Monday when I get fibre installed, the heating engineer should have sourced a new water pump by Tuesday, and I start the Great Moth Recovery program tomorrow.
I still have a view of the water (River Dee/Irish Sea) from my living room, but already miss the scenes from British Columbia.
Kathy may post a final blog, but I don’t think much will happen boatwise/blog now for 6 months.
When I return to work on the boat in April, I will be preparing it for a summer, which I think will mostly be in north BC, maybe even as far north a Juneau in Alaska, then before it gets too cold we will whiz south towards Mexico as previously planned.
Thanks for following our travels and all the positive comments and support we have had.
I’d been intrigued by descriptions of Princess Louisa Inlet. Who could resist these words from Erle Stanley Gardner (best known for writing the Perry Mason detective novels) in his book ‘Log of a Landlubber’:
‘There is no use describing that inlet. Perhaps an atheist could view it and remain an atheist, but I doubt it’
‘There is a calm tranquillity which stretches from the smooth surface of the reflecting water straight up into infinity. The deep calm of eternal silence is only disturbed by the muffled roar of throbbing waterfalls as they plunge down the sheer cliffs’
‘There is no scenery in the world that can beat it. Not that I’ve seen the rest of the world. I don’t need to, I’ve seen Princess Louisa Inlet’.
High praise indeed, so when Paul suggested I look up some places to visit as we continued along the route to Sointula, it was the first place I mentioned. The beauty of Back Eddy would be hard to beat so our expectations were high as we motored past forested, snow-peaked mountains on the foggy morning that Paul turned 60.
By the time we reached Jervis Inlet, the views had grown steadily more breath-taking, aided by the afternoon sun’s rays and a clear blue sky.
The waterfall that features in so many of the descriptions lies at the head of the inlet. Called Chatterbox Falls, it’s the result of the Loquilts River tumbling its contents 120 feet over the top of the granite-walled gorge. The noise of it grew louder as we approached the jetty; it was a truly spectacular sight – not enough to convert us to religion but certainly awe-inspiring. A bride and groom were posing for pictures as we tied our lines – the seaplane they’d arrived on, which is the only other way to access this paradise, was just in front of us. There were only three other boats apart from us but the place gets very crowded during the summer months.
We took an early evening walk along the short woodland path through thick trees covered with moss to have a closer look at the falls, and naturally took the opportunity to take plenty of photos. The fine mist created by the torrent coated us in a layer of water as we stood by the rocks at the bottom. A sign nearby warned against climbing the rocks and provided stark statistics about the number of deaths that resulted in those who had failed to heed the warning. It was made all the more chilling by the fact that the number could be easily changed if others died. A memorial pavilion in honour of James Macdonald provides a small circular area for visitors to light a fire with facilities for barbecues and picnics.
All this was made possible by the legacy of the man who bought the land surrounding the falls in 1927. Viewing himself only as a mere ‘custodian’ of the ‘beautiful, peaceful haven’ James F Macdonald loved the place so much that in 1953 he declared his wish that it should never be commercialised. He stated that the property should be turned over to yachtsmen of the Northwest so they could carry on enjoying the beauty ‘unspoiled by the hand of man’. It’s thought that the name Louisa was in honour of Queen Victoria’s fourth daughter Louise who had spent three months in Victoria, British Columbia in 1876, but the actual source is uncertain.
We met a Canadian father and son on our way back to the boat in the dusky twilight. It was their first visit too and they told us they planned to sit on the pontoon with their portable camp fire and consume a few drinks far into the night. All in all not a bad place for Paul to spend his milestone birthday.
The following day, we were invited onto a super-yacht called ToyBox 2 by two British ladies who had clearly spent the afternoon enjoying more than a few drinks. Melanie, an ex-pat from Nottingham had won the trip, complete with captain, in an auction and as her friend Sue from Preston was on a visit with her husband, they had joined her. All the other visitors on the jetty had been invited. It was a good chance to have a peek at the luxurious interior of such a huge yacht and to chat to the other people. The drink carried on flowing and after a couple of hours it was suggested we walk to the memorial pavilion where the captain had lit a fire and we could sit and drink in the warmth of the flames. A lovely experience, especially walking through the dark wood using our phones’ flashlight to see our way. I think Paul and I remained the most sober of the whole group. On the jetty we all stopped to look at the wonderful sight of the phosphorescence in the water. It was just like fairy lights moving underwater – an amazing sight.
We went back through the picturesque Malibu Rapids to return to Egmont on the 20th September. Paul was keen to do the forest walk to the delightfully named Skookumchuk Rapids that Jim (who would be looking after Sister Midnight in the winter) had told us about when we’d met him in Egmont the previous week.
We ended up rafting up to the same boat Jim had rafted to on a drizzly, chilly afternoon that had a definite autumnal, or fall, feel to it. The rain carried on through the night and as we didn’t have to leave until 3 to see the rapids at their best, I hoped it would have stopped by then. It didn’t. We set off anyway and once under cover of the trees they provided adequate shelter. The walk was fabulous. We found ourselves in an atmospheric, fairy-tale forest that was just wonderful. The trees were tall, thick and lush, their branches covered in hanging green moss that made them look for all the world as if they’d been dressed in felt ribbons. The path was littered with fallen trunks and the intricate patterns formed by the roots were fascinating. Ferns and moss with their varying shades of green on the forest floor added to the spectacle.
A frog startled me when it leapt across our path but the only other wildlife we saw were small birds – oh and a Garter snake held by one of a group of students we met on the trail who was trying to scare one of the girls with it.
Paul had asked the guy in the shop about the risk of bears but he said that although they are in there no sightings had ever been reported in the forest. Nevertheless it was easy to imagine one in that setting. It would have been nice to walk in late afternoon sunshine but the drizzly, misty overcast weather did create a great forest atmosphere. We emerged an hour later from the shelter of the trees onto a rock-covered shore where the rapids were in full flow. A few other people were there taking pictures and clambering over the rocks for a closer look. A lady we’d met on the way had told us that there was a sea lion leaping around in the waves and that was what I set off to look for. I spotted it almost straight away jumping around in the foamy water, searching for fish I expect. A couple of motor boats crossed the swirling mass; it was clear they needed a fair bit of power to avoid being tossed around by the force of the water. The rain began to fall heavily as we stood and watched and people slowly drifted off until we were the only two left. The rain was starting to seep through my clothes so I waited under the trees until Paul had finished filming. By the time we reached the boat, it was beginning to get dark and we were soaked through and feeling cold. Luckily the heating had been left on so it was wonderfully warm and welcoming inside.
The rain fell all night and after a brief respite, began again late morning as we made our way to the small town of Lund. Lund reminded me of highland villages in Scotland I’d visited in the 90s, and strangely enough there was a poster advertising a ceilidh in the hotel, due to take place that night. It wasn’t long before we heard the musicians practising for it as the sound of bagpipes tuning up reached our ears. The band were all female and dressed in full Scottish regalia. It made for quite a surreal sight and sound in the tiny Canadian resort. Lund’s claim to fame is that it’s the northern terminus of the world’s longest highway. The Pacific Coastal Route (101) stretches an impressive 25,000-kilometre route along the western coasts of the Americas to its southern end in Puerto Montt, Chile. Some pics below of quaint Lund.
On we journeyed, to Prideaux Haven and Pendrell Sound via Desolation Sound, a place that definitely belies its name, which was taken from Captain Vancouver’s description in 1792: ‘Our residence here was truly forlorn; an awful silence pervaded the gloomy forest, whilst animated nature seemed to have deserted the neighbouring country.’ This had more to do with his discouragement at the number of dead-end inlets he had recently explored than the surroundings, however. We found it pleasing and pretty, with no sense of desolation in the view from our anchorage. In fact, all the anchorages we spent the night in were beautiful, as the pictures show. We explored the shore in Pendrell Sound and came across a house that had suffered from the weather at some point as half of it had collapsed. A drawer and other household items were floating in the water so it was clearly recent but there was no sign of anyone in the house. On the shore itself, there was evidence of fires from the blackened tree trunks and piles of ashes we saw.
At Teakerne Arm on the 25th September we took a stern line ashore as the water is far too deep to anchor. Two magnificent waterfalls dominate the view in this bay and we were the only visitors on a warm, sunny and clear afternoon. There was a trail leading to the top of the cliff so we were able to sit and watch the water tumbling down perched on the edge of an alarmingly sheer drop.
Our next stop was at a place called Blind Channel Resort and it soon became high on my list of the most beautiful places I have seen on my travels so far. To get there we had to cross no less than four sets of rapids and timing was crucial for each one. There was also the added hazard of huge stray logs in the water which we were keen to avoid, so I took position on deck to watch out for them. The fourth crossing was Greene Point which felt decidedly more turbulent than any of the other rapids; I felt the boat pulling away from the direction Paul was steering in quite a few times. Paul told me later that he’d forgotten to factor in that one so we’d actually crossed them at full flood!
Blind Channel, presumably named because of the blind spots on either side of its bay, came into view about 3pm on 26th September and grew more attractive the closer we got.
We spent three great days here, making the most of the natural surroundings by strolling on the beach and following the woodland trails to look at the 800 year old Big Cedar, supposedly the largest tree in Canada with a staggering 16 foot diameter. The path winds its way through a magnificent 90 year-old second growth forest of various tall tree species, lush forest plants and babbling brooks.
Jonathan Raban had stopped here in the 90s and remarked that it looked like classic bear territory. He had walked along a forest path to look for a phone ringing his boat bell to scare them away. We had in fact acquired a couple of ‘bear bells’ by now but we still haven’t used them. Anyway the only wildlife we saw during our walks was a squirrel, a woodpecker (amazing to watch it pecking at the tree trunk), and a tiny field mouse. Later, from our pontoon we spotted a sea otter basking on the wood of the opposite pontoon and crept slowly towards it to get a better look. Paul took some great video shots of it for his blog post. I loved the peace and natural surroundings of Blind Channel and I liked the resort owners, too. It would have been easy to spend more time there, but we were aware there would be more to see further along the Inside Passage.
We anchored at Forward Bay on the 29th September on water so still it was like a mirror. A huge bird sat on a branch on the nearby shore and seemed to be watching us from the time we anchored at 3o’clock until just before sunset. I had been watching to see it fly away but typically it flew while I was otherwise occupied and I missed it. Bears have definitely been spotted in this area according to Paul’s anchorage guide; alas, we didn’t see any.
As we prepared to leave for Port Neville, the engine, which had given a few warnings of its possible failure, refused to start and Paul had to take it apart to see if he could fix the fault. My role was to pass things to him in the manner of attendant to surgeon. This was tricky when he called for things like ‘mole grips’ and ‘long-nosed pliers’ and I had no idea what they looked like. I listened to his various cries of triumph, despondency, frustration and enlightenment and wondered if we would be staying another night. Finally, three hours later than intended, we motored off in drizzly, grey, cold weather for the three hour trip to Port Neville arriving at 3pm. There is a visitor jetty there and only one boat was tied to it so with Paul instructing me, I took us slowly in and Paul jumped off to tie the lines. It’s only the second time I’ve done that bit and I was pleased it went so well. The rain was heavy by the time we were settled and the deserted shop on Port Neville looked eerie in the rainy twilight. I couldn’t help imagining what it must be like in the empty rooms. There are quite a few other dwellings on the island but all empty now the summer season is over so totally uninhabited. I think if the weather hadn’t been so awful I would have been sorely tempted to have a wander around.
Alert Bay was our final stop before Sointula and we spent a couple of nights there. I will always think of it as Raven Island although it’s actually on Cormorant Island and claims to be ‘Home of the Killer Whale’. Ravens were everywhere, and very vocal, too. Their piercing cries compete with those of seagulls and crows to create quite a cacophony of sound. Alert Bay is home to the Namgis and Kwakwaka’wakw (try pronouncing that word!) First Nation tribes and they form the largest population on the island. There are over 40 totem poles on the island and a leaflet we picked up in the visitor centre lists them all with detailed explanations. We saw a fair few of them during our walk and made a point of seeing the world’s tallest one at 173 feet high. A visit to the U’mista Cultural Centre provided an invaluable array of information about the culture, history and future of First Nation Tribes and an interesting display of traditional and contemporary masks and other artefacts. It had a great gift shop too.
The other highlight on the island was the ecological park. This is a natural swamp fed by an underground spring. Trees were killed when a dam built to store water for the cannery caused the springs to flood the area. The tall, naked trees now provide perches for bald eagles and ravens and is a paradise for birdwatchers and botanists. There is a boardwalk enabling people to walk across the swamp which made for an enjoyable excursion and a closer look at the ecosystem of the swamp.
We were in Sointula on Malcolm Island by October the 4th where the boat will now stay until Spring next year. As I type, it’s almost time for us to leave Canada and fly back to the UK. We have grown very fond of Sointula in the week that we’ve been here. It’s been made all the more special by the warm and friendly welcome we’ve received from Jim, who will be looking after the boat during the winter, and his wife Ivana. They kindly invited us to their thanksgiving dinner last Sunday where we enjoyed a delicious feast and met two of their friends in their lovely home on the waterfront. I can honestly say I love it here and will miss it when we leave. That said, I’m looking forward to catching up with family and friends in the UK next week. It’s good to know we’ll be returning here in 2019. I just hope I get to see a bear next time! Final pictures for this year from me below, of gorgeous Sointula.
We made the most of having a car for a couple of days before we left the marina in Seattle’s Elliott Bay. Our gas canisters got refilled in a place about 20 miles away which meant we got to see a bit of rural Seattle on the way. Anything else heavy and bulky was bought, loaded up or dropped off for repair, while weighty provisions were bought and stowed on the first day we had it, so that we were free to drive to Snoqualmie Falls the following day. Snoqualmie was recommended as an excursion in the ‘Mountain Getaways’ section on my Kindle travel guide. Described as a location the Native Americans regarded as sacred, the falls are 268 feet high and mark the place where the Snoqualmie River begins its descent to the sea. With breathtaking views from an observation deck and short hikes in the surrounding woodlands, it sounded very appealing.
We arrived there around noon on a hot, sunny day after driving about 30 miles east from Seattle. Again, it was a delight to drive through Washington State’s countryside, especially as we drew nearer to Snoqualmie where the forest was thick, colourful and lush and the Cascade Mountains loomed in the distance. The Falls were a tremendous sight, it was almost hypnotic to stand and watch them – a timeless and totally natural spectacle. We took a lot of pictures and read all the information boards before setting off to attempt the recommended hike to the lower observation deck. Here, we met with disappointment, however. Although Paul was lots better, he didn’t feel up to the effort the sign (pictured below) warned of, and since it was very hot by then, neither did I!
We compromised and walked down a small part of the trail until we could see just how steep the descent was – the path wound a long way down in a spiral pattern. Two ladies on their way back were getting their breath back on a bench and one look at their faces showed the trial they’d experienced. The thought of climbing that hill in the heat was off-putting and I was relieved to turn back towards the obligatory gift shop. Inside, the products on sale reminded me of the other claim to fame in the area. Nearby, the sumptuous Salish Lodge and Spa, served as the ‘Great Northern Hotel’ in David Lynch’s popular television drama ‘Twin Peaks’. I hadn’t watched it but Paul was a huge fan, so when we learned that the location for the show’s enigmatic introduction (a sign bearing the words ‘Welcome to Twin Peaks’) was a few miles away we thought it was definitely worth the trip to see it. The route took us through a quaint little town with signs advertising The Northwest Railway Museum and as it was well past lunchtime we stopped to have a bite to eat and check out the museum. The ‘museum’ was spread out along the street with some fascinating, iconic locomotives, freight cars and railroad artefacts to look at. It was possible to board a few of the trains and I loved climbing into the engine compartment of a ‘Casey Jones’ (for anyone who remembers that show) one, and several others that were familiar from vintage American TV programmes and films.
We found the exact spot where the Twin Peaks sign should have been but a bit of internet searching revealed that the sign had been removed. Like the ‘Penny Lane’ sign in Liverpool, fans kept stealing it! Still, the bend in the road was easily recognisable and we took some pictures to compare online later. Further along the road, it grew more scenic with steep, forested hills leading down to shallow streams where people were paddling and picnicking. We stopped for a while to dip our feet in the cool water and admire the pretty setting.
I had a rather ungainly entry to Port Townsend a couple of days later, when I went to jump off at the fuel dock pontoon to tie the midship line. I caught my hip on the wooden fender board on the port side and fell onto the pontoon at the feet of the guy who had come to assist us! The only injury sustained was to my pride I’m pleased to say. Port Townsend hosts a Wooden Boat Festival each year and we would be staying at Boat Haven Marina for three days to see as much of it as we could.
It was early evening and drizzling with rain on our first night there. The festival would be closing for the day but we thought it would be good to walk there and have a look around. Halfway along the long, straight road we were asked if we wanted a lift to town by an elderly lady driving a golf cart type of vehicle. We gratefully accepted, thinking it was a free shuttle laid on for the festival. She was very chatty and full of local information and questions about our plans and travels. She gave us her card and told us to call her if we needed a lift back…and then asked for the $6 dollar fee! She will do well with the festival-goers I think. The festival’s first full day was winding down when we got there so we didn’t have to pay to walk in. There was still plenty to see, and the live music tent had a band playing with a bar selling beer, wine and soft drinks. Some stalls were still open and several food shacks were serving so we had a slow amble around getting a feel for the place.
Some of the boats were open and available to look around but we thought we’d save that for daylight. We bought festival food and ate it listening to the band and watching the dancing. The atmosphere was great, despite the inclement weather and I looked forward to a full day there the next day. We walked back in the dark following the main street through the centre of town. It was lively with bars and restaurants, well-lit shops and some historic-looking buildings…and some large bookshops.
We caught the much cheaper festival shuttle bus the following morning. The rain had stopped and it looked set to be a fine day. Once we’d paid the $20 admission fee we agreed to wander separately around the site and meet up later. There were a few talks on that interested Paul that wouldn’t do much for me, and I could spend as long as I wanted looking at ‘stuff’ on sale. There was plenty to look at, watch and listen to – and that was before we walked the pontoons to look at the wooden boats. It was great to see the replica of Joshua Slocum’s boat ‘Spray’, which turned out to be a lot larger than I’d imagined when reading his account of his solo round the world voyage in 1895. The rain held off until early evening which was lucky for stallholders and festival goers alike as it would have been damp, chilly and muddy underfoot as the site had few places to shelter.
On Sunday 9th, the festival’s final day, we decided we’d seen pretty much all we needed to see on the site and since it would be winding down at 3pm it seemed wasteful to pay another $20. It was cold and drizzly too, so an ideal museum-visiting day. The town’s museum was offering a discount for festival goers and even though we didn’t have proof of our attendance the previous day, the friendly staff member let us in at the reduced price. The museum was a delight, despite its small size. Housed on the main street in an old building that used to include the town jail, it was built in 1891 and had a wealth of fascinating photographs and information about the town. I was thrilled by the fact that a favourite writer of mine, Jack London, had once cavorted drunkenly down the streets and ended up spending a night in one of the cells.
Several other establishments and sites had a colourful history associated with their locations. The Palace Hotel used to be a ‘rooming house’ (brothel) and The Rose Theatre, built in 1907 as a vaudeville house still hosts plays, ballets and operas and also operates as a cinema, or movie house as they are called here. Point Hudson, on the southeast corner of the town was a Native American seasonal camp and also the site of Captain Vancouver’s 1792 landing; it is now Port Hudson Marina and R V Park.
The Rose Theatre was a lovely looking old building that just cried out to be explored further. We looked at the films being shown on the display boards outside and on impulse, decided to see one later that evening called ‘Crazy Rich Asians’. Making a real night out of it, we had a drink in a bar overlooking the harbour, went for a walk along the hilly path above the town and then had dinner in a Thai restaurant before the film. The interior of the theatre was stunning. It was a real treat to sit on comfortable sofas with a glass of wine – served in a glass, not disposable plastic – instead of the impersonal and often confusing layout of multiplex cinemas. It was even possible to stretch your legs out on the chairs and sofas. The film was good, too in an ‘Asian romcom’ way.
We both loved Port Townsend. Paul said he could happily have spent weeks there. It’s a haven for boat owners, with its specialist marine workshops and chandleries. The shops were charmingly unique and the day before we had to leave, I spent a whole afternoon browsing them and the bookshops as well as picking out the old buildings described in the museum and imagining them as they used to be.
We were back in Canada by the middle of September. Previously, we had stayed at Sidney Spit in the Haro Strait, but this time we spent a couple of days in the town of Sidney itself. Both of us found it a bit lacking in something. I think ‘manufactured’ is the best word to apply to it. We had probably been spoiled by the elegance and history of Port Townsend. It did have some very impressive bookshops though, so I can forgive its characterless gift shops and uninspiring hotels and restaurants. The Haunted Bookshop was an especially wonderful place. On the showery morning I visited, the shopkeeper and I were the only people inside, but unfortunately I didn’t see a ghost.
For my birthday on the 14th, we moved to Tsehum Harbour for a stay in Van Isle Marina. It’s a pleasant, family-owned operation with a restaurant, an office, a few workshops and little else since Sidney Town is less than a mile away. Luckily the restaurant had a good menu and we booked a table for the evening. Paul enjoyed a seafood meal and they kindly adapted the vegetarian option into a vegan curried squash and lentil meal which was delicious. We ate with a view overlooking the marina just as the sun set.
Our next port of call was the intriguingly named Pirate’s Cove – straight out of an Enid Blyton story! No pirates spotted, just more rain and a warning in our ‘Best Anchorages of The Inside Passage’ guide that it would be a tricky and challenging task to anchor, involving tying a stern line to the shore. Other deficiencies mentioned were: an entrance guarded by a long narrow reef with a rock that juts out which has grazed the hull of many boats, strong NW winds that could make for an uncomfortable night and oozy mud that causes many boats’ anchors to drag. Thankfully, the ‘charismatic occult leader’, Brother XII who set up a commune on DeCourcy Island in the 1930s, and who used to shoot anyone who dared venture near his island uninvited is no longer in residence. He apparently deserted his followers, after having liberated them from their money and gold (in true pirate fashion) and took off for a life Switzerland. Anchoring was unproblematic and there was no NW wind to trouble us. We did tie a stern line to the shore, but gratefully accepted the help of a neighbouring yacht owner, who saved us the task of getting the dinghy out. The rain continued all evening, so with the heating on and the temperature dropping we had an autumnal meal of burgers, mash and beans and a cosy evening in.
From Pirate’s Cove we motored to an anchorage at Boho Bay via Dodd Narrows and from there to Back Eddy Resort, watching the surroundings grow evermore picturesque as we drew closer to the mountains. Initially intending to stop just to get fuel, Back Eddy turned out to be such an attractive place we decided to stay the night. The tiny village of Egmont was a short walk away and the lady who checked us in told us it has the smallest Post Office in Canada so naturally, that had to be checked out. It was a clear and sunny afternoon after the recent rain, and the light was beautiful as we walked around the harbour. As always, the photos don’t quite capture the beauty of the place but they give a good idea.
Paul’s birthday was the next day, but as we planned to be at anchor, we had his birthday meal in the pub/restaurant opposite the pontoon.
Our journey along the Inside Passage would continue with stops at more destinations with storybook names. We were bound for one which has several claims to be the most beautiful setting of them all: Princess Louisa Inlet.
If you’re not likely to get excited by Starter motors or Rust, you can skip this post altogether as it’s really dull
A couple of times in the last week the starter motor failed to start the engine. The Starter motor whirred away very fast, but wasn’t connecting to the engine, so the engine couldn’t start.
The bible on such matters, Nigel Calder’s maintenance book suggested tapping it with a hammer, I had already tried this without any luck, but he wisely suggested to do it while the starter was turning. This worked on two occasions, but today it had no effect.
Being anchored in a very quiet deserted calm bay, with no phone signal, no harbours within 20 miles we were basically stuffed, the only option being to put out a pan pan on the VHF and hope one of the passing boats 15 miles away in the Johnstone Strait would hear. I could just make out the weather forecast on the VHF and they were predicting a gale for later in the day so I had hoped to be at our next port before then.
So it was that I started the task of extracting the starter motor from the engine. Mr Calder had explained the principle of the spiral grove that the cog runs along so that centrifugal force causes it to engage, and that I probably just needed to clean that up and all would be ok.
I took a photo of the wiring, so I could put it all back together, removed the connections, and unbolted the three bolts holding it in. Of course it wouldn’t come out, I tapped it with the hammer, tried to rotate it, but all to no avail. Back to Mr Calders book, and sure enough he says if it won’t come out, give it a ‘smart tap with a hammer to free it’. Obviously I must have been doing ‘dumb taps’. So I returned with the hammer and gave it the smartest tap I could muster and sure enough it moved a little and I could easily yank it out. At this point I could see a trail of dried saltwater/rust all the way from the salt water cooling pump down to area around the starter. I had not been able to see this from other angles, but assumed it was related to the small leak I had spotted on the front of the pump the other day. Minor, but I planned to fix this when I do the engine service next week.
Next my favourite part, stripping it down. I love taking mechanical things apart, but usually this is only when they are disposable, as I can rarely put them back together properly. This time I was careful to mark what went where and to take pictures where there might be doubt / memory loss later.
Looking at the motor it was clear what the book said about rust being the problem. The engaging mechanism, I think this might be called the Bendix, was quite rusty, as was the whole area that sat under the engines big cog (Flywheel?). Mr Calder explains that sea water in the bilge under the engine can splash up and the flywheel can squirt it all around and in particular into the starter motor. More on this later.
I was able to take it all apart quite easily, clean it up, and with a combination of WD40, oil then grease, have the cogs that had initially seemed almost seized, to be whizzing around now with no problem.
It only took 3 attempts to reassemble, just because bolts can all look the same doesn’t actually mean they are!
I was feeling quite confident the job was done, next I had to fit the starter back into the engine, lots of jiggling and it eventually was back bolted to the engine, now the big problem was what to do with the wires. Looking at the photo didn’t help, it didn’t cover the area I needed. There where two studs coming out of the back of the starter that didn’t seem to have wires connected to them, yet I had removed the nuts off them so they must have connections, oh dear. Lots of staring at them, reading manuals and checking in the bible didn’t enlighten me, so I connected the wires I was sure about, i.e. the big red ones that go to the solenoid, and tried the starter.
Voila, the engine spun into life, I shut it down, and then I realised there was a sound of trickling water, as if the tap had been left on, Kathy could hear it as well from the other end of the cabin. Looking into the engine, water was trickling from under the water pump and down the side of the engine. So now I knew the cause of the starter motor rust problem, and felt happier, but what was wrong with the pump?
The Water Pump.
This guy pumps sea water around the heat exchanger which cools the fresh water pumped around the engine, and he was leaking a lot.
I decided to leave it until we reached another port where I could get to help if needed, I figured it had been leaking for a few days, the engine was staying cool, so we could continue.
Once we arrived in Alert Bay, with wifi and shops/ferry to a big town, I had a go at repairing the pump. As always there’s always one fastener that won’t budge, and it was a big bolt that had previously had its head rounded off. It took me an hour to get this out, then I found I didn’t have a spare so had to fabricate one from some studding.
The pump cleaned up ok, but it took a while to find the correct pump in the workshop manual as there are two different types used depending on age.Further inspection revealed that I didn’t have any spares, even though I couldn’t see any wear on the rubber o-ring that was in there, and the diagram didn’t show any other seals. I filled the chamber with water and nothing dripped out. I wondered if perhaps the pipes feeding/taking water to the pump were leaking at the join and the water being squirted to the back of the pump. Unlikely, but it was my only hope for a quick repair.
Before refitting the pump I tried to clear up the areas the salty sea had been spraying. Cleaning the hose that feeds water into the transmission oil cooler saw water squirting out, closer inspection revealed a hole in the cooler, caused I expect by the leak above.
For now I have put some tape over the hole, I’m going to have to replace the cooler at some point soon.
Once it was cleaned and re-assembled I started her up. Usually it takes a while to prime, but this time the water was flowing rapidly out to the exhaust, however it was still running out of the back of the pump as well.
I’m going to have to take the next trip to Sointula, our final destination this year, carefully. When I return in April next year I shall bring a new pump and cooler.
I may need to start thinking about a new engine, but that’s a pricey game I don’t want just yet.
Alert Bay is a fascinating place with a great First Nation Cultural centre, More on that in another post. The town is old and the harbours have some very interesting boats, and a lot of very sad neglected ones too.