Conversation Part 2: Kitasoo Watchmen and a Float Plane

I’m not sure when pictures will get added. The drive that held all my pictures crashed and has not yet been restored from a back up.

‘‘Why do they always want to tie up on the port side?’’ Cara asked, not the world at large, not God, but Joe.

Joe looked at Cara, made eye contact but didn’t even bother to shrug.

The aluminum boat Kitasoo Watchmen backed away from port the side, then came along the starboard side a distance away from the Nordic Spirit, but before the boat could tie up the floatplane appeared, touched down on the water and stopped about 250 feet to starboard.

Joe looked at me. We climbed over the side into the dinghy. The engine started with a single pull.

We moved over to the floatplane, but before we reached it the Watchmen had swung under the wing of the plane and started loading Joe’s parts, an elderly man and my two red plastic five-gallon cans of gasoline.

We never did cut the engine. As we turned around, the Watchmen approached Nordic Spirit to starboard and began tying up.

Joe and I approached Nordic Spirit on its port side, which was stacked high with Day-Glo orange 18 inch buoys.

We nosed alongside where Joe could climb on board. He clambered aboard climbing under and over buoys, ropes and assorted stuff, found a place to tie up the dinghy and rearranged a few things so that I could climb on board.

In the pilot house he opened a small box and held the newer version of the pump that had failed for me to see.

As they do in the moment, things get confusing for the next hour or so.

Quinn noticed the younger of the two crew men on the Watchmen was wearing a Penquin’s T-shirt and pointed it out to Liam who chuckled, then asked, ‘‘How are they doing this year?’’

The Canadian Coast Guard called to check with Joe and ask about me.

They had been trying to reach Caro Babbo on Channels 16 and 82a, but had no success. This was because Jennifer had been monitoring channel 6, which is the channel the float plane was on, and the channel we had been using.

By then Robert and I had confirmed that the parts would be on a float plane flight arriving at 12.50 Monday in Klemtu.

When Joe walked the elderly man, who turned out to the mechanic into the wheel house, he asked whether the mechanic had worked on the model diesel in Joe’s boat, a 12 litre six cylinder Ford (I think). The mechanic answered, No, but he’d give it a try.

They disappeared into the engine room down a steep staircase from the wheelhouse.

Cara came into the wheelhouse telling Joe the floatplane pilot needed to tie up to the Nordic Spirit because he couldn’t ‘‘start and stop,’’ which at first made no sense to me. Then I realized the floatplane needed hang around to take the mechanic back.

The crew found a long thick piece of polypropylene that the pilot tied to the portside float from the starboard side of the boat just aft of the Watchmen.

Joe screwed the pump into the engine while the mechanic sat close on the steps and I looked down from overhead. The light was terrible so Joe asked me to get an extension cord for the light from behind a small door in the hallway forward of the galley leading to the crew quarters.

Cara helped me dig the extension cord out, and Liam got it connected so Joe could see what he was doing.

After a few moments pumping the pressure started to rise. There needs to be 40 lbs of pressure to run the engine and the pressure easily moved to the middle teens but no higher.

Joe, the mechanic and I climbed into the wheelhouse to consider what we were seeing. Joe decided to call the boat owner. The search for his phone number ended when the mechanic pulled the bill out his pocket: $1500.

The bill was for the plane to bring the mechanic and the part. The mechanic was clicking at $100/hr.

Looking aft from the wheelhouse, the Watchmen was still tied alongside with the float plane streamed out behind us. Tied from the front of the port float, the plane point away at about a 45º angle. The door was open. The pilot sat in the cockpit reading.

All of this weight was dragging us backwards, though we hadn’t realized how much yet.

Calling the owner wasn’t working. I called Robert to verify that the details of what he was shipping me and the price: $160 delivered to Klemtu.

Joe decided a deckhand should do the pumping, so the youngest of Liam and Quinn went below to pump. Though the pressure wasn’t rising, continued pumping seemed the only alternative open. I sat in the galley speaking with Cara and whomever wasn’t pumping as Liam and Quinn traded off.

Joe said that the owner had told him that this had taken a few hours of pumping last time it happened. Yeah, in retrospect, it seems like keeping a spare $40 part onboard vs the $10K loss and the, figure, $2K direct costs would be a worthwhile investment. No, Joe only ordered one pump.

Spontaneously, Cara said to me, ‘‘If you told me I’d being doing this twelve years later…’’ the rest needn’t to be said.

Quinn said loudly, smiling, ‘‘but then you wouldn’t be able to travel and windsurf.’’

A windsurfing kit was tied on cabin top. Earlier there had been some discussion about whether to windsurf while we were waiting for parts to arrive. Cara travels to warm places to windsurf and enjoy other aspects of life.

Cara was wearing black leggings and a waist-length T-shirt. Quinn wore a tight T-shirt showing off worked arms, and Liam dressed like any 18-year old in jeans and a T-shirt, though Liam really looked like a tall 14-year old.

Carla is a good bit older than both Liam and Quinn, and neither has worked with Joe and Cara before, so the banter was not as familiar as peers or people who have worked together for a long time.

While we were getting the extension cord out of the closet next to the head, I could see the crew quarters: Dark with no windows versus the bright and clean galley and dining area.

Cara had cooked breakfast eggs on a Coleman camping stove that took propane cannisters. When I passed by the black cast iron Newport diesel stove, it was hot and on.

Liam and Quinn took turns pumping. I wandered from the dining area to the wheelhouse and back a few times.

Joe and I sat for a bit with the mechanic who mentioned how old he was getting – Five years older than me. It was money wasted.

On the nav screen it was clear we were dragging at an increasing rate. By the time I left, Nordic Spirit would have dragged about a mile.

I called Robert with questions to make sure I was getting the right part with all of the pieces. I ordered two sets.

A couple of weeks later I learned that the Yanmar crusing kit includes this part, so breaking it is not uncommon.

Joe repeated twice, that I needn’t hang out. I took the hint and started getting my foulies and boots back on.

Liam helped me carry the Jerry cans with gasoline over to the port side and passed them down to me.

A note on gasoline: the plane brought what is often referred to as marine gasoline. Automative gasoline has ethanol alcohol made from corn. My engine and other marine engines specifically warn against ethanol-tainted gasoline.

Joe did not remember to ask for two-cycle oil, so none was delivered.

As I got ready to leave, Joe called down to Cara amounts of prawns to be given to everyone who had visited. Cara gave me two pounds.

I was surprised that Joe did this. There was certainly no need or even reason to do so. I was equally surprised that the shrimp were processed and frozen into one-pound clamshell polystyrene packages.

I climbed down into the galley to say goodbye as Joe started cranking the engine. The pressure had never stayed above 17 pounds, but would go to over 20 with continued pumping.

Each crank would last 15 seconds or so, and the first few was just an empty cranking engine. Then on the third or fourth, Cara called up, ‘‘it sounds different.’’

On the next cranking, ‘‘The sound is changing!’’

On the following cranking, the engine started.

No one cheered, but the mood shifted to smiles.

I shook Joe’s hand. Said congratulations, thanked him for the prawns. With Liam standing by, climbed into the dinghy, after starting the engine, was cast off, and motored at full speed back to Jennifer.

It couldn’t have been many moments before the float plane was in the air and the Watchmen was on its way.

I didn’t call Jennifer to tell her I was coming. It would be less worry if it took me a long time or I needed to row that last part. The day had turned sunny, but the wind had not really picked up as it does in the afternoons.

I had been aboard Nordic Spirit four and a half hours.

Jennifer was standing on board looking for me when I came into view. I can’t remember how she knew to look for me, perhaps it was the float plane leaving.

I tied up the dinghy and climbed on board.

It was Friday. The parts would not arrive until Monday. Caro Babbo was tied fore and aft.

Quigley Cove is fed by a creek a mile or so away from where we anchored. Most of the distance is dry at low tide when bald eagles walk on the newly exposed land looking for things to eat.

The fresh water floats on top of salt. A scoop of water is fresh.

During one row just after low tide when the water was rising, a long, furry, dog-sized animal walked along the water’s edge and looked at us brazenly with cold eyes. We stopped rowing and watched it. It stopped, looked back at us full-faced, lost interest and continued on its way.

Jennifer nailed the ID, it was a wolverine, making Jennifer and me the only people I have ever met to have seen one in the wild.

When I climbed on board, Jennifer told me the Canadian Coast Guard asked me to call, tell them I had safely arrived and give them my plans, which I did.

With solar panels, a full larder and a fueled kerosene stove we prepared for a few day vacation from cruising, potentially alone in the cove.

Yachette – late that afternoon steaming at five knots or so, Yachette, a 23-meter motor yacht came into the cove. I called them on VHF to tell them we were anchored fore and aft and to welcome them to the cove.

They spoke with us, and called back in a few moments asking if we’d like some ice. The skipper sounded younger than me, looked my age, but was almost twenty years older.

We’d meet Yachette again, and see them on AIS, but they are forever remembered with these words, spoken with not a lot alarm by the woman piloting the boat when they went to leave, ‘‘I’m going to run into the sail boat.’’

End of Part 2

Part 3 will be posted on June 19


Author: johnjuliano

One-third owner of Caro Babbo, co-captain and in command whenever Caro Babbo is under sail.

6 thoughts on “Conversation Part 2: Kitasoo Watchmen and a Float Plane”

  1. You are getting really good at ratcheting up the tension by breaking this into parts. I’m dying for the next one already!

  2. Great stories John! Coming from Michigan I especially liked the wolverine sighting. Michigan is known as the wolverine state even though there is little evidence they ever were present here. On another note, keep in mind that cruising is just fixing boats in exotic locations! Sounds like you are doing just that.

    1. ‘‘fixing boats in exotic places.’’ I said that to a local who scoffed, ‘‘Ketchikan isn’t exotic. It’s just Ketchikan.’’

      Dave, are you getting much sailing done?

      1. Ketchikan is exotic to me… Just got back from taking Waltzing Matilda north. 3 days of which 2 were motoring in very light winds then the last day from S Manitou island to Northport was wonderful sailing. We were wing on wing for 4 hours then coming around Leelanau peninsula going south close hauled in 20 knots of wind.

        1. I’m pleased you got some sailing in.

          We split a fuel line about 20 miles north of Wrangell. (I’ll write about it in a future post.)

          The engine would run, sort of, but spray diesel everywhere. We used the engine to get us out of the small anchorage and then sailed to Wrangell.

          We put in two reefs for part of the sail, put up the 170% for part of the sail and ran wing on wing at hull speed for part of the sail (we also called the ferry columbia to make sure they saw us).

          The Stikine river flows through there, turning the water an opaque granite green. It also makes the current readings moot as the water is flowing to the ocean at 2 knots all the time.

          20 miles in twelve hours and in some ways the best sailing of the trip as it took skill to get where we were going.

          We had two guests on board. One stayed up with us in the cockpit, doing sail changes, etc. The other went down below, read and slept. No mal de mer. Given how we we bumping along at parts, I was very impressed.

          I suspect you boat flies in twenty knots.

          Our goal is to get into the great lakes in four years or so.

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