Port McNeill to Davis Bay

We were up early -- and more sun!! We had time to kill before the Lugger parts would arrive in Port Hardy, so we explored Beaver Harbour and Storey Beach by car. The anchorage, written up by Dreamspeaker and Hamilton & Hamilton, definitely looked good and a nice alternative to Port Hardy. We also visited Hardy Buoys, a provider of smoked fish. We bought candy smoked Salmon bellies, which we later found were the most amazingly delicious smoked salmon ever.  We also did a little more provisioning at our favorite grocery store in the area, Overwaitea. 20090911_Port McNeill_Davis Bay_0066

Somehow this Paint Scheme Does Not Add to the Nautical Flair of This Boat

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An Interesting Solution to Securing a Line to the Dock

The parts were in on time and we called Graham, arranging to meet at the boat as soon as possible. The new breaker from Lugger also didn't quite fit, but Graham made it work and left us the one that arrived by bus as a spare.

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Port McNeill

We cast off of the docks at Port McNeil at 3:47pm. According to Karen the EXACT time we cast off last year! “Déjà vu all over again”, to quote the renowned New York Yankee’s philosopher, Yogi Bera.

Our crossing of Queen Charlotte Strait was the antithesis of our experience a few days ago heading back to Port McNeill. Light winds, calm seas, and one of the clearest skies we have ever seen in the Pacific Northwest.

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Under Way at Last!

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Beautiful Day on the Strait

Deciding to bag any shot at the Nakwakto, we headed for another favorite, Drury Inlet. We used our Nobeltec navigation system to time our arrival at Welde Rock and the Stuart Narrows. Based on our predicted arrival at the narrows, I fine tuned our speed across the ground (SOG) in order to arrive at slack, in this case high slack.

Once inside Drury Inlet, the biggest problem we faced was the sun. We were traveling due west into a setting sun. This made the watch for logs (of which there were many) a challenge. I would adjust our course so that I would keep the sun and the reflection of the sun on the water hidden behind one of the vertical posts of the forward windows.

The good news is that as we turned east to go into Davis Bay, the sun was at our back, making it easy to navigate the somewhat narrow entrance. We favored the North side of the channel, as all who have written about this anchorage advise. Once inside, the bay opens up and you can drop in anchor in the middle of the bay with lots of room to swing.

We were totally alone, and loved this anchorage just as much as we did last year. It's lovely and peaceful. The night was as calm as the day and the skies crystal clear. About an hour after sunset we turned off all our lights, waited for our eyes to acclimate and then moved to the bow to be awestruck by the night sky.

The Milky Way extended from horizon to horizon and starry constellations were too numerous to identify them all. The stars lit up our spirits in a way no other natural wonder can. A sigh of happiness - we were back on vacation!

Port McNeill

The part for the generator is not scheduled to arrive until the 3:30pm bus. So this morning’s project is to see if we can get any kind of depth reading at the lower helm station while we're waiting. It's not much fun (or prudent) to cruise the Pacific Northwest without a depth indicator in the nice and toasty warm pilothouse. As I had tried all the obvious troubleshooting steps to no avail, it was time to bring in the experts. Luckily, Stryker Marine is located in Port Hardy, only a half hour north of our location. Again, Steve Jackman came to the rescue and arranged with Stryker to have a technician come to the boat.

At the appointed time, Paul arrived. I briefed him on the steps I had taken and then opened all the access panels to the electronics so he would have a clear shot at accomplishing his diagnostics. The conclusion was that either the Raymarine depth transducer or the sounder module had gone on vacation and a field repair was not a practical option. Next is where Paul’s talents really shined.

We had an operating depth sounder on the bridge, a newly installed Furuno unit. Paul concluded that we could tap into the output side of that unit and bring a signal down to the lower helm. He did not have the needed cable to hook up to the Raymanine plotter, but he did have what it would take to bring the signal to the laptop that was running Nobeltec. On that screen we would display the depth information sent from the Furuno unit. No more jerry rigging power supply so Bob's laptop could help us navigate with good charts from the flybridge!

Paul set to work, snaking this slender frame under the flybrige helm, connecting the “white and blue” wire to a serial cable he had with him. From there we feed the cable into the open bays behind the lower helm's eyebrow panels were a number of electronic instruments live. Next, we connected a serial to a USB cord and existing the finger hole for the eyebrow hatch, dropped the USB cord direct to the laptop.

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Paul Sorts out the Electronic Spaghetti

So far so good, but we need to install a number of drivers so the laptop would recognize the signal from the Furuno. As fate would have it, the laptop on board would not allow us access at the administration level, which is what you need to install a new driver. Therefore, we installed the drivers on my laptop, which is also running Nobeltec and sure enough, up came our depth on the Nobeltec screen. An added bonus: water temperature.

Paul left me to complete the install on the boat’s computer once I secured the administrator’s password from Northwest Explorations. After a few hours of detective work, Brian from Northwest called with the codes and I was able to configure Arctic Star’s laptop to display the depth and water temperature. The only way you would know there had been a change to the boat was the cable that hung from the eyebrow to the laptop. This was a small aesthetic price to pay in order to display the critical depth under the keel.

A note on Port McNeill; they are in the process on extending the south breakwater 300 feet. Scheduled to be complete in mid-October, this extension should provide additional protection from winter storms and also reduce the occasion swell that sneaks into the harbour from the ferry or other passing large vessels and storms.

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The New Extension to the Breakwater at Port McNeill

We spent the afternoon waiting for Graham to arrive after we picked up the new circuit breaker at the bus station. Boy does time drag when you're stuck in port waiting for a repair. Having already spent a great deal of time in Port McNeill, we struggled to entertain ourselves knowing that our vacation was slipping away.

To pass the time, we ran a bunch of errands while griping that we were stuck in port on what was an amazingly sunny day. The best "find" was the A Frame Church Bookstore. All the books it has are for sale for just $1 (hardback or paperback), and the shelves are full. Karen was in heaven!

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Karen Maintains a Lookout for Graham and the New Parts

Grahan finally did arrive in the late afternoon, circuit breaker in hand. Back down into the engine room crawled Graham, uttering a few choice words for the engine room designer who had little appreciation of what it is like to work on a boat after it is built.

The breaker was not a perfect fit when it came to the mounting studs, but given that the amperage was correct, Graham proceeded to wire it up so we could determine the exact cause of the generator's problem. Once everything was in place, I fired up the generator and turned the AC selector switch to GENERATOR. Yeah! We had power, 125 volts of AC power. We continued to add load to the generator by turning on every AC device we could think of and it handled it all without missing a beat.

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The Replacement Breaker Taped in Place for Its First Test

Based on our testing, Graham proclaimed that the only problem was the circuit breaker itself and this one would work if we could not get anything else.

However, he strongly recommended we wait until Friday, when Lugger's care package was to arrive at Port Hardy via plane. Sadly reconciled to spending another unplanned night at Port McNeill we ran into Captain Dave and his crew, who invited us to go bear hunting with them at sunset, using their dinghy. It was so great to be back on the water, and the best part was that we saw two black bears foraging on the beaches not far south of Port McNeill.

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Foraging at Low Tide in the Port McNeill Suburbs

We also saw a lovely Crewed Charter Yacht, Northern Song, come into Port McNeill late in the day, and spent some time chatting with Captain Mike Miles and his wife/chef, Caroline. It was almost 9pm by the time we headed to Sportsman's for pizza and beer.

Murray Labyrinth back to Port McNeill

We pulled the anchor (yes, we had enough "power" in the battery banks to get this done without manual winching!) and were under way at 8:00am. We had a date with a mechanic back at Port McNeill and I wanted to traverse the channel out of the Labyrinth with a couple of more feet of water under the keel. This would also make for a slightly wider channel. Given that the winds were 15-20 knots with gusts to 25, I wanted a little more wiggle room as we negotiated the serpentine path through the rocks.

We made it out of the Labyrinth with no issues, and we really encourage like-minded boaters seeking solitude to try it. Once out, it was indeed blowing, the canvas on the flybridge roared and rumbled in protest. We hugged the mainland coast, making our way past Blunden Harbour before turning to establish a direct course to Port McNeill. If the Strait was too churned up, our plan was to tuck into Blunden and wait out the winds as they were forecast to subside during the day.

The weather was about as forecast and we headed into quartering three foot swells topped by one foot waves. With the stabilizers on, the ride was tolerable, so we continued on to our rendezvous with the mechanic.

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The Straight Kicks Up

Steve “Batman” Jackman (General Manager of Port McNeill Fuel and Harbour. When you see Steve you'll have to ask him how he earned the Batman moniker) made arrangements to have Graham McDonald meet us on the docks upon our arrival.

Graham comes highly recommended by Steve and that’s about as strong a recommendation as you’ll find. Graham, in his sixties, seems to be able to tackle almost any electrical or mechanical problem you can throw at him. He possesses a quiet confidence built, I think, over his success in fixing almost anything that can break. We came to know this because during our three days together he regaled us with a range of stories about his exploits and his insights into the nature of us all.

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Graham to the Rescue

Graham set to work and shoehorned himself into the aft most reaches of the engine room where the afflicted parts of the generator reside. After a hour of dismantling the generator enclosure and the electronic control module that lives on top of the generator, Graham emerged with what was left of the circuit breaker that protected the generator's components.

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The Remains of the Circuit Breaker

I don't think even the circuit breaker's mother would have recognized this pile of debris as its own. The breaker had burst open and spewed its guts during its final death throes. The picture says it all. And about 4pm, the search for a replacement part began.

Graham called his supplier to order up a replacement which would arrive the next day on the 3:30pm bus from Qualicum. While in today’s world that would seem an eternity, remember where we are and how far we are from any major population center. At the same time Brian, from Northwest Explorations, was on the hunt to secure the same part along with anything else Graham might need to repair the afflicted power generator.

It’s important to remember that getting a new circuit breaker in place was just the beginning of the troubleshooting process. Once the breaker was in, there still existed the possibility that other components had failed and would need to be replaced.

Brian had the advantage of being in Bellingham, Washington with easy access to all the parts and dealers along the U.S. West Coast. Ultimately he had Lugger, the Northern Lights generator manufacturer, put together a “care package” of parts. The disadvantage of being in the U.S. is that there are Customs challenges when sending parts into Canada that can delay arrival. Combine this with the fact that there are few options for transportation of the parts once secured. Scheduled air service is limited and charter flights are very expensive. To Northwest Explorations' credit, they explored every possible option and all were “in the mix”. The final decision would come down to what would get the parts to us the fastest.

We were happy to plug into shore power and get our refrigeration and freezer back, as everything was stuffed to the gills with enough food for 3+ weeks. However, when we plugged in, the refrigeration/freezer units did not respond. We trouble shot some more and found that when the "genny" circuit breaker fried, the fuse went on the Grunert refrigeration control unit. Luckily, Steve Jackman's auto parts store at the head of the dock had the 10amp fuse we needed.

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Karen Takes the Garbage "Out" on Her Way to Buy a New Fuse

Back in the town of Port McNeill, we went back to our favorite place to dine, the Northern Lights restaurant. The salmon in puff pastry was great and the Keith Alexander Amber Ale helped us shrug off the changes in our plans to some degree. The day was also made better by meeting up again with Captain Dave from the lovely 80+ foot custom yacht we had seen on the docks earlier, who offered us a tour and raised Karen's spirits by letting her live vicariously for a while. She especially admired the heated bathroom floors, under lit bathroom sinks, and killer galley with a cold room for storage. Bob? He was into the forward looking sonar.

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Our Big Beautiful Neighbor at the Docks