Up The Protector WOW Ruined  Summer Boats Back



We are ecstatic with the new boat.  We can literally, at a moments notice, head down the hill to our slip in Snug Harbor, hop into the boat, unzip the pilot house cover, turn on the electronics, briefly warm the engines and off we go.  What a difference from all the fuss with the other boat, and well any other boat of substantial size.  Though we loved the Nordhavn and all the things that went with it, we wanted to do something different now, and no consuming maintenance, a breather.


Our first jaunt, I call it that but I’ve heard other people call it the Virgin Voyage, which sounds a little strange to me, as wouldn’t you think that means before she’s gone to sea, untouched?  Maybe it should be called maiden voyage, but then I looked that up and it says “the maiden voyage or flight of a ship or aircraft is the first official journey that it makes”.  Just for interest they add……  “In 1912, the Titanic sank on her maiden voyage.”   Hmmm that sounds like bad luck (and little did I know in the next few weeks, we would have bad luck).  Anyway, so, I can’t really say accurately if this was our Virgin Voyage, or our Maiden Voyage, but really is was basically just our first jaunt voyage, just the two of us, on a day purely designed for fun.  No trial testing, etc., just a day out.  We decided to see if we could “whip over to Sidney” on nearby Vancouver Island.   I love that word “whip over”.  It’s my new and favorite description of what this boat can do.   It’s only a short trip, maybe 10 miles or so. 

We have literally been staring at the glow of its Sidney’s city lights every night for months now but it’s been unreachable without a boat.  We would longingly star at the glow silhouetted by Sidney Island which blocks our direct view of its sparkling town lights.  We love Sidney and it has been a port that we have visited many times over the years cruising up here. It has been in the past for us a base for provisioning and a nearby town where we used to keep our past boat(s) to avoid the hefty Washington State Tax.  I remember provisioning there for our trip to Alaska in 2002.  I was so surprised back then to find out that all that crap I packed into the truck and hauled up to the boat from southern California on our truck was all there in the little town of Sidney and more, and cheaper (at that time) too.   Of course the dollar rate today to the Canadian dollar isn’t nearly as advantageous for doing this, we still like to go there.  That was my first lesson learned about Sidney back in 2002 was that they have just about everything you need, from supplies to services, to restaurants and friendly people.  Great place! And cute as a bug too and they take lots of pride in their town, keeping it looking great with flowers and filling their time with fun festivals.


After being on the islands (San Juan Island) all summer long without having a shopping fix, well more accurately, without having to hassle with the time consuming and frustrating ferry ride (during peak summer tourist season), we headed for the first and closet place we knew for shopping and restaurants. 

We glided slowly and carefully out of Snug Harbor, still not too familiar with the harbor rocks, giving the big knob of rocks at the entrance a wide berth, as Captain Jim (the local whale watch boat captain) advised.  We came out of the harbor and into the convergence of Mosquito Pass & Haro Strait, the very area we have been watching for months now from our deck as we longingly wished we were some of the boaters out there.   Now we were!!

We took it slow as we see kayakers to our left and we noted the green marker off to the right on the lower tip of Henry Island (said to be one of the most frequently hit rock areas in all the San Juan’s, though we’ve been watching all summer and haven’t seen a happening there yet).   We have watched the area many times from our deck at the house.  Depending on the tide and how extreme it is, many times it’s really hard to see even the little green marker.  At extreme high tide it practically disappears and at low tide your eye balls pop out when all the dangers are clearly exposed that normally hover us inches below the surface.  It is a dangerous area, looking so happily benign most of the time.   I’d say 80% of the time, those rocks are below the surface.  Sometimes we laugh in shock as we see some boat unknowingly run over the area and somehow are lucky to miss the rocks.  Either they have some special local knowledge or just have good karma. 
The area reminds me of monster sea anemone lurking below the surface waiting to snatch up a nice morsel innocently drifting by enjoying the day.


I laugh now remembering when we first moved into the house and didn’t know the area.  We didn’t have any charts with us either and we’d look over there wondering what the exposed rocks were.  It was too far to see clearly with the naked eye.  There were several days of extreme low tide and the rocks were especially exposed.  The shape of one particular rock from our distance and bad eyes took on the imaginary shape of a guy in a skiff fishing.  We commented on his determination and stamina to stay in that one spot for so many hours.  It was quite remarkable with the currents.  It’s a popular fishing area so we didn’t think twice about it not being a fisherman.  He was there fishing all day long.  We’d come and go in the house and occasionally stop to glance out to see how he was doing, “still there we’d say”.  Next day, there he was again, until finally we realized it was just too much for any human to stay there that long and in one spot.  That’s when we realized it was a rock.  How silly we felt but got a good laugh at our bogus fisherman.

We continued on out slow around Henry Island and even though we could feel the strong urge emanating from these powerful engines to let her go, we crept slowly out.  We know from watching all summer that the waters we were crossing were usually filled with whales feeding and working their way up the channel and we didn’t want to take a chance on disturbing or scaring any of them plus it would be great to see one or two.

We glided so smoothly and silently over the water.  Zig and I sat in the back, Larry at the helm, the wind gently blowing on our faces.  It was so odd to be at water’s level and not way up high in that protected pilot house of the Nordhavn.  No more perched high views of everything.  This mode of travel was going to be on the water’s surface.  A freighter loomed in the distance, just coming in the Strait from Juan de Fuca, looking even more gigantic than they usually do.  I wondered where did he come from,  China, Japan?  He was heavy in the water loaded with trade goods.  Birds flew by at our level we both were able to catch the whites of our eyes with quick glances.  Even though we are precariously close to the water, I feel protected and I think this is a hell of a lot of fun.  The sun was out, the temperature was warm, and it was just a perfect day.


The difference with this boating is that we’ll have to get used to our lower vantage point in height off the water.  Obstacles come up fast, like crab pots for instance.  Once we picked up speed across Haro Strait and continued on around the southern end of Sidney Island something colorful zip right by the boat, then another.  I realized it was crab pot markers.  Crabbing just opened a few days ago and there were a bunch out here.  I got up immediately from the back bench where we were sitting to see if Larry saw them.  As I got into my pilot seat opposite Larry, I asked if he saw them and he gave me a nod.  I looked ahead and suddenly there was a field of them.  What the heck? It was a quick flash back to cruising in Maine, just one incredible coastline of lobster pots.  I’ve never seen so many in one place around here.  It must be a commercial field of them.  I kept thinking how different this type of cruising will be, traveling three times as fast as the Nordhavn and from a much lower perspective.  So we both worked together to spot the pots and Larry would make the necessary turns to weave through them.  This calls for quick response time going 24-30 knots as opposed to the 9 knots on the N57.  We certainly need to get our cob webbed brains in gear with this boat, no delays in reaction time here.  It sure was a completely different type of cruising. 




Soon, and I mean soon, we were approaching the harbor entrance to Sidney.  Since we’ve crossed the International Border we have to first check in with customs and then once you are cleared you can go anywhere.  Today it would require two dockings, once at the customs dock and again to your slip assignment.  Normally I wouldn’t even think about that, but I still didn’t feel I had the hang of this boat and these lines, and how to gracefully get on and off the boat, etc. so I was apprehensive.  Mark from Protector has a method that he showed me.  Somehow when he does the lines, it all works and goes smoothly.  His way is to step onto the dock with the stern line and the bow line, one in each hand.  The problem is once I get on the dock I’m facing the wrong direction and start to fumble around trying to turn around and exchange lines between hands.  I somehow forget that part, how does he manage to turn around once on the dock?  This sure doesn’t work for me!  It just becomes utter chaos and fumbling for me.  I can’t really walk along the side of the pontoon to jump off either.  It’s not a safe stable surface for me.  So I can only get off the boat from the back cockpit area and with lines in both hands.  It doesn’t feel safe because I can’t really hold onto the boat either as my hands are full with lines left and right.  I can’t walk on the pontoon without holding something as it’s a bit squishy and not a firm surface either.  I feel a bit wobbly on it. 

Hmmm, I’ve got to figure out a better way.  I really think a center line would work.  I could lay the bow and stern line out on the pontoons with the ends reachable from the middle of the boat once I’m on the dock.  This way I could grab them once I’m on the dock and after I’ve secured the boat with the center line.  We used to do that with the Grand Banks sometimes when the weather or currents were precarious.   That method means I’m jumping onto the dock holding only one line, the center line.  That center line secures the boat, not like when I’m tying off the bow or stern by themselves which allows for the opposite end of the boat to swing out.  I could jump off on the dock with the little center line in one hand and still hold onto the pilot house with the other too.  Once I got the center tie done, then I have time get to the bow and stern secure without the boat swinging out and take care of them one at a time.  But no today I get on the dock facing with my back to the boat and of course we haven’t got Zig figured out either and he wants to get right in the middle of it all and it adds to the confusion.  I say to myself…. in the future Zig’s got to be tethered and I need that center line.  No question, this is ridiculous!  How does Mark do it?  And, I think, sometimes, he’s the only one in the boat.

Once tied to the dock, not without a lot of grumbling on my part, Larry jumps off and heads over to the phones mounted to a post at the customs dock.  These particular phones have a direct line to customs office.  He answers a few questions and we’re cleared.  We then call the marina and get a slip assignment which is to just move to a slip on the other side of the customs dock.  We’ll only be staying a few hours so it’s a temporary slip.    

This time I stay on the dock while Larry pulls the boat around.  I grab the bow line and tie it and the current pushes the stern way out off the dock before I can get the stern.  I should’ve tied the stern first I guess.  We get her tied up, and being not too proud of our docking skills, we say sheepishly to some people that are nearby watching every mistake intently, “new boat, just getting’ the hang of it” and head up to town.  Why is their always an audience when you make an Ass out of yourself?


Wow, here we are in Sidney already.  “No fuss, no muss”, well that, and “lickety split”, are my new favorite phrases with this boat.  No trouble, nothing much to mess with.  We, in minutes, are walking up the docks to see today’s port of call.  I sure like this kind of cruising.

Wow, Sidney has really put on a new face.  She’s looking even spiffy than ever and there’s something new, she looks kind of slick.  The marina lounge has multiple TV’s and huge leather lounge chairs to sit in while you’re doing your laundry etc.  I feel a bit like we’re in the Admiral Club of marina lounges.  They have a  “sheik”, by boating standards, store too which is located upstairs at the marina desk loaded with spa soaps, perfumes, etc. and boating jackets, vests and hats all embroidered with their marina name and logo.  I have always wondered so they really ever sell any of that stuff?


As we head up towards town, which is all within walking distance, we are over shadowed by the new multi story architecturally slick hotel called The Sidney Pier Hotel.  It looks a bit like it should be in Vancouver or Seattle rather than in what I used to think of this small little quaint town but looks like a great place though, nice restaurant, espresso and gelato bar.  I like it!  And…..they take dog’s in the hotel part so if we ever decided to come and stay over night that would work perfectly for this boat!  After all we keep calling this boat the B&B boat.   Perfect.

We headed up the Main Street.  I love Sidney’s Main Street as it’s just chuck full of great little shops, coffee bars, pastry shops, restaurants,  (several Greek ones which we are told all are owned by the same Greek), Chinese, bistro types, good breakfast joints (Larry’s preference), and lots of books stores, many used bookstores too with great selections and knowledgeable staff, not your boring Barnes & Noble plain vanilla selections with clerks that a lot of times aren’t interested in books.  They’ve got several little antique shops, a large grocery at the upper end of the street, a few hardware stores, a nursery, some music stores and a couple fun pet shops, culinary house wares, etc. etc.  The town has everything but certainly not the price deals anymore that we were used too, especially when it comes to books.  The dollar is almost or at least the time of writing this, equal with the US but they are still selling books at the printed price on the back of the books.  That means a book that is listed for instance at $24 US and Canadian $36, that they are still selling it at the Canadian $36!  It doesn’t make good purchasing sense when the dollar is so close to the Canadian.  I just couldn’t make myself by a book at that ridiculous exchange rate even though they seem to have many books that I don’t see in the US that I’d really like to buy.

We headed up to Larry’s favorite breakfast place and sat out on one of their tables on the sidewalk.  That’s another thing that I like about Sidney, lots of outdoor seating for many of their restaurants and coffee house and right on the sidewalks.  Lots of good people watching and if the weather is good there’s no better place to be. 


As you are probably tired of hearing, as I’ve said it many times, we love Sidney and its people.  It’s very English surprisingly to me, well the city of Victoria is too.  I don’t know why that should surprise me but it did when we first started coming up here.  Somehow I never thought of Vancouver Island as being populated with so many English.  That tells you how naïve I am I guess.  You hear people with talking English accents and they haven’t changed from their English habits as they like their tea and sweets and walks with the dogs.  They take pride in their town as we’ve watched them over the years constantly improving it steadily little by little.  They fill their sidewalks, walkways and parks with flowers, another English hold over I think, great gardeners and appreciation for all of the above.  The town’s people are a successful mix of young and old, working and retired, new born and ruckus teenagers but it all works.   This town is a pure joy to visit.


Down on the waterfront on the pier is the fresh fish market, about the only thing around that hasn’t changed and a little café about the size of a walk in closet right on the end of the pier and it’s the best kept secret.  We had a great little meal and a bottle of wine there one night all to ourselves perched right out over the water and they are dog friendly, so zig is welcome.  I hope it’s still the same.

Well, as you can imagine, we had a great day in Sidney and got our fix for shopping and sightseeing which was much needed for the both of us after being land locked or is it island locked for the last couple months.  It was fun to see all the new changes that Sidney is enjoying.


And how easy and simple it was to just hop in the new boat and then head back again, quick and swift all in one day and not with out a swing by Roche Harbor on the way back and a cut through Mosquito Pass back to Snug Harbor.  I’m surprised how quickly and easily we’ve adapted to this little boat.  I think it’s going to work out just fine until we decide what and if the next boat will be.   Too bad we didn’t have it sooner in the summer but what the heck.

We pull into out little slip at Snug harbor and Zig and I head up to the house as Larry wants to stay on the boat and fiddle and clean off the salt spray.  Hey, this is great too – as I can just have a fun day and when we come back I just step on to home dock and head home.  No more fuss and muss!  When Larry gets done, dinner is ready and we’re home.


OK, we’re addicted now.  We like the boat. 





Scott, our painter, who has become a fast friend, needed to go to Henry Island one day to do a touch up for a client whose door was damaged.  He needed a way to get there and of course Larry offered.  Any excuse to get on the boat was just fine with us. Scott’s client’s house was located smack dab in Mosquito Pass.  The current runs through this narrow pass there pretty good clip so docking will be a new challenge.   Again, we have no center line and it was a bit tricky.  I got the boat hook out and was able to snatch a hold on the cleat.  Scott jumped onto the dock with his paint gear and we waved goodbye and said we’d be back in about thirty minutes to pick him up after he did his magic touch up.  We just cruised around the area for 30 minutes until it was time to swing back by.


 Second time, the docking was even better.  I think we’re getting the hang of it and this island life.  I thought how funny it was to be taking Scott with his paint box, dropping him off on a little island not accessible by any roads like that, but to him and many people that live here it was just the most normal thing in the world to do.  These islanders are so used to piling into a boat to get to a job or whatever it may be.



The weekend was coming up and we wanted to go to Ganges for their Farmer’s Market and to see the little village again.  It’s located on Salt Spring Island, in the Gulf Islands, just across the border in Canada.  It too is another one of our favorite places to go.  It’s about 30 miles away.



In prior visits, you know with prior boats, before the Protector, I guess we could jokingly call it BP (before Protector) we’d plan an overnight outing because it would take a good part of the day to get there and back.  Now, we can just whip up there (well, except for the stop at Bedwell Harbour to clear Canadian customs) and still get home the same day.



Today, it was funny because we completely over shot the turn to Bedwell Harbour and had to turn around and come back.  I guess we still are not used to traveling so fast and reaching our destinations so quickly.  No day dreaming allowed anymore I guess.



It is amazing the power this boat has and the addicting capability of overtaking any situation like for instance passing other boats and maneuvering quickly out of the way of another.  All that business of worrying about other boats being in the way or causing us to alter course because everything moved so slow is gone now.  Now we don’t worry much about the freighters or ferries or most other boats because we can easily and quickly maneuver around and out of their way when necessary. 

Actually when you have to drop down in speed to come into a harbor you can hardly stand it.  You feel like you are traveling at such a snails pace. 


We pulled up to the dock at Bedwell and again cannot brag about doing a good job docking.  We pulled in behind a Nordhavn 55 at the dock and the captain came out to give us a hand with the lines.  Again, the sheepish comment came from my mouth, “new boat, getting the hang of it you know”.  (Got to get that center line – dam it!)

We do have Ziggy all figured out and under control now though.  Larry made a leash line that we attach to the hefty shinny stainless steel post behind the back seat and in front of the engines, and he’s good there, and seems to understand the routine now without much fuss.  Now if I could just get the routine down with the lines then we’d be set.

The check in with customs was quick and off we went again.  Bedwell has changed into a nice looking resort and spa which we hope to come back and try out some day.  It’s looking pretty spiffy. 

As we head out, this time, we’re paying more attention to the chart and not letting the fun ride get the best of our navigating.  In a flash we were heading up the long finger to Ganges Harbour.  We slowed our approach and got in the cue of boats ahead of us all heading to the same place with the same idea in mind.  The scenery coming up the channel is great.  I love to look at the quaint and beautiful homes, the rocky outcroppings, and the small sheltered and sandy bays. 



Since we were only going to be here for the day, we thought we’d just go to the public dock.  As we approached it became very clear that the town was packed and the marinas and docks were bursting with boats all crammed in and others longingly milling around trying to find a spot to squeeze into.  We joined the boats milling around like flies, flying in mindless circles looking for an empty spot to land.  We poked around the best we could to see if anyone looked as if they would be leaving soon.  No such luck.  Everyone seemed settled in for the weekend.

Larry called Ganges Marina to see if there was space for the day.  “Sorry, all full” was the response.  We were shocked.  We had heard the place was getting crowded but wow this was ridiculous!  We couldn’t anchor out because we had no dinghy or kayak to get in on so that wasn’t a possibility.  What were we to do? We came all this way and just to give up and go home was not what in the picture. 



I took over the wheel for awhile so Larry could call the other marina.  My time at the helm turned out to be the best learning experience for me.  It quickly taught me how to maneuver the boat in tight quarters, doing 360 degree turns, backing and going forward, moving between other boats, and dealing with the current all at the same time.  Several other boats were dealing with the same dilemma.  It was a challenge but I got the hang of it.

We couldn’t believe how crowded things have gotten, more and more boaters and it seems like less space or the same but now not enough.

We were determined to find a place though. Larry is like this in parking lots during impossible conditions and always seems to find a place way after I’ve lost my patience.  We kept spying this little space that was almost under the tall pier.  It would mean asking this fishing boat if we could raft up to him.  Finally, realizing there was no other place that was going to open up we decided to ask the captain of the boat if he would mind letting us raft up to him for a few hours.  As we maneuvered closer it looked more like a converted fishing boat that now was a pleasure-live aboard for a small family.



Within yelling range, Larry called out to him and asked if we could raft up.  He waved us in.  It was a tight spot but there was just enough room to squeeze in between the pier and boat in front of him.  I wanted to give it a try.  After, all I was getting some good experience already, having maneuvered around the harbor for the last 45 minutes while Larry tried calling other places looking for a slip.  I also wasn’t yet comfortable with handling the lines yet and so Larry said “give it a try”.

So, slowly we went backward and forward, inching our way into this difficult spot.  Finally close enough, Larry threw a line and the captain grabbed it and just that quick we were snug as a bug. 

I felt like we were in Alaska again.  We did plenty of rafting up there and no one would think a thing of it, but here, these boaters would let you go home before someone would offer to have you raft up.  For some reason here in recreational-boater-land, no one would offer.  We exchanged a few words and then carefully climbed across the captain’s back deck, large enough to have taken in some large hauls of fish over the years.  We carried Ziggy in our arms and threw him up on the pier, just a big swing up and over.

Wow, I was feeling pretty good about getting her into this spot. I was beaming inside.  I think we’re finally feeling comfortable with the boat.  I love the size and easy maneuverability and the lack of responsibility that the other boat required.  This is just the thing we needed, something fun, easy, fast, and something we could walk away from without a lot of work and maintenance.

We were docked on one of the public docks I think.  I guess there are two separate ones.  We were snug right up almost below the tall pier.  We have never docked at the public dock before.  You don’t have to pay a thing and no reservations.



We did notice from the top of the pier what look like a taxi boat, much like they have on the East Coast.  Most pleasure boats there don’t use dinghies to get to shore when anchoring because there is always a taxi boat or dory to hail on the radio to come pick you up.  Guess we could’ve anchored then.  We’ll try that next time.

We headed into town which is right there, no hiking up the long ramp and up the road like you do from Ganges Marina.  This was great!



We first headed to Barb’s Buns for breakfast.  It’s nestled back up into town in the back on a side street.  We ordered up some eggs and sampled a few fresh baked pastries and sipped some hot steaming coffee and sat back to enjoy watch all the crunchy granola types.  Aaah, it was great to be back!

The town is an artist’s enclave, and has lots of interesting people and stores, and the most fun is the Farmer’s Market when they all seem to come to town to enjoy the day, playing music in Centennial Park, tossing bean bags on their feet, dogs and children running, barking and laughing.  We bought some fresh homemade goat cheese decorated with pressed flowers and some delicious artisan bread.  It’s always fun to poke around at the market.  One year I bought a felt hat and another time some jewelry made of local pressed flowers tiny as an ant.  Its great people watching and right smack dab in the center of town and within walking distance of your boat.

We made our rounds at the local stores, bookshop and grocery.  Larry likes to stop in the local wine shop too and buy some locally made wines that can only be bought on the island and I love Moat’s for clothes.


So, soon loaded with goodies and stomachs full of tasty things, we headed back down to the pier to the boat.  The fisherman’s boat was quiet and closed up.  I guess they were in town also.  We carefully climbed back over their deck and over the tall railing down into our boat.  We untied the lines and off we went.



Larry decided to take the route through John’s Pass back.  It’s a beautiful passage through the cut of two islands.  It’s funny how we notice completely different things on this boat than we did on the N57.  You feel and smell the salt air.  You hear birds, seals and distant fog horns.  I guess it’s good as long as the weather is.


As we approached the entrance just outside of Roche Harbor we stopped while Larry called US Customs on the cell phone.  We quickly got our clearance and then did a swing through Roche Harbor.  We tied her to the dock and did a quick walk to the General Store.  The place was hopping as usual with boats.   We never get tired of looking at boats and looking for people we know or have seen from cruising.  We didn’t see anyone familiar today so we headed back to Snug Harbor to our home.

 What a perfect day out on the water and how nice to come back to our home for the night!



 Next trip, to Anacortes for the Arts Festival and the shock of our boating lives!  The Ruined SummerRuined Summer