Two Steps Forward, One Step Back


Watching the sunset on Prevost Island with Adventure Ducky. A toy I found on the beach one day.

As I write this, I am leaving the US and crossing the Canadian border for the second time in a month. My first attempt wasn’t a false start. I spent two weeks circumnavigating Vancouver Island’s Saanich Inlet. A very populated place, akin to Seattle. The early spring weather was stormy and made a good shake-down cruise. I got to cross Butchart Gardens off my bucket list. While the trip showed me that I was ready to cruise north, it also showed me that a few extra accessories would make the trip much more efficient. But it was really the run-in with the Canadian Border Patrol that inspired the trip back to the US.

I had been four days on the Canadian side of the border, anchored just off the ferry dock of Fulford Harbor on Salt Spring Island. I was poaching some internet with my long-range Wi-Fi antenna, but kept drifting out of range. A stern-line to shore was out of the question, so I decided to grab my back-up/stern anchor. It’s a Danforth/Fortress knock-off that I got several years ago from West Marine and never used. These types of anchors are supposed to be incredibly strong pulling in a one direction, but do not reset or hold well if pulled from the other direction. As a stern line, it should only be pulled from the intended direction, so I thought it would work well. It also stows perfectly in the bottom of my anchor locker. It took me three tries to get the anchor to set without dragging, achieved finally with a 10:1 scope.

One minute I look up and here comes a Border Patrol boat bearing down on me. I greeted them and helped tie their boat to my starboard side. My stern anchor immediate let lose due to the extra weight and never came close to resetting. I was a little nervous. I have a CAN pass which lets me call ahead when I cross the border. I’d been given my entry number and thought I had done everything right. Having a visit from Border Patrol, particularly in a remote anchorage like this, did not bode well.

Greenfield Fluke Anchor

This is the fluke-style anchor that I was trying to use as a stern anchor. Not impressed!

The officers informed me that I had missed one vital requirement of my CAN pass: to tie up at the dock until my check-in time. My one previous use of the pass was at Tumbo Island, which is apparently the only check-in point that doesn’t have a dock, so this requirement came as a surprise to me. They had apparently been there to inspect my vessel, but because I was anchored about 300 feet away and they didn’t see me, I was in a bit of a pickle. They inspected my boat, but were quickly convinced that I was ignorant and had no intention of making the mistake twice. They let me go with a warning.

But the encounter convinced me that I should have no faith in my stern anchor. Their boat was a light weight RIB, and couldn’t have weighed more than my boat. There wasn’t even very much wind. I reached out to the Liveaboard Sailboats group on Facebook and my more local group of Salish Sea Sailors. I came to find out that these Greenfield fortress knock-offs are not praised highly for their utility.

I then proceeded to circumnavigate the Saanich Inlet. Leaving the Butchart Gardens behind, I motored from Todd Inlet to Mill Bay to restock on groceries. I then sailed from Mill Bay up to Prevost Island. Prevost is almost unpopulated and has several secure anchorages. I stern tied there and pigged out on oysters for a few days before sailing the short distance to the town of Ganges on Salt Spring Island. At Ganges I enjoyed the Saturday Farmer’s Market and prevalent Wi-Fi. I used to time to finish writing the code for the Find Solace page. I’ve since released the code as open source on Github.

Places Mentioned In This Post

While in Ganges I began to question the wisdom of pushing north with a backup anchor that I didn’t trust. What if I had really needed a stern anchor that I was forced to rely on? What if something happened to my primary anchor? I would love to buy a Rocna anchor, but I have nowhere to store it. Someone on Facebook pointed me to Mantus anchors. They are like a Rocna, but unbolt into four pieces for easy stowage. The only way to get it is to order directly from the manufacturer, and shipping to Canada would be an extra $100. I was only a day away from the border and there were other things I’d like to get too, all more expensive to ship to Canada.

Two Burner Coleman Stove

This two-burner Coleman stove works great for cooking crab.

During my last month of voyaging, I’ve been burning denatured alcohol for my stove at the rate of about 2 gallons per month (That’s about $45 per month). I also noticed that 80% of the time I’m just heating up water. I have a Coleman two-burner camp stove that I use to heat up the crab cooker. Propane is nice because it’s cheap and heats up water much faster than alcohol. However, the Coleman is cumbersome and has virtually no ‘low’ settings. It’s basically all or nothing. With my alcohol stove, I can fine tune the heat really well and can actually manage to simmer food with success.

I found the best of both worlds with this single-burner propane stove that has much, much finer throttle control than the two-burner. I also did some rough calculations and figure I’ll use about $4 in propane to accomplish the same amount of cooking that I did on $45 of alcohol. A big reason for this cost savings is that I have an adapter to fill up the small, green 1 pound bottles off of my bigger 5 gallon tank.

Since I was heating water up so often, I also decided that I should upgrade my thermos. It works well, but the lid was missing. I’d seen newer ones that kept hot water longer and were much bigger. I picked up this 2 quart thermos which is rated to keep hot water hot for 36 hours. I’m very pleased with its performance. I heat up a teapot of water in the afternoon, and it’s still near boiling hot when I use it in the morning to make coffee.

Sailboat Solar Panels

Happy at finally having a second solar panel! 36 watts of solar power now, lashed to the boom, and easy to remove and stow.

Finally, I tried to order several solar panels like this one before I left for Canada the first time. The first try resulted in all three solar panels being the wrong one. Sending them back for a refund took extra time. I ordered two others and only one was the correct one. Apparently there are two panels being sold under the same part number. One has an aluminum frame for fixed mounting. The other has a plastic frame with mounting holes, which is perfect for lashing onto the boom. The last two weeks made me fall in love with the one, correct solar panel and I wanted another. I was able to get ahold of a seller on eBay that was willing to physically open the package and check for me. I ordered it.

From Ganges, I ordered all these things and had them shipped to my friend, Julie, in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. The next morning both the wind and tide were in my favor. I made it 20 miles back to the states in about 5 hours. I got to spend a week hanging out with my friends on the mainland and in the various islands. All my parts arrived. The new anchor is awesome! The burner and thermos combo is much, much more efficient. The solar panel is going to greatly decrease the frequency at which I’ll have to run the generator.

Back to Canada!

Related posts:

Mushrooms at Home and in the Wild!
Adventures in Alaska
Van Camping the Olympic Peninsula
3 Responses to “Two Steps Forward, One Step Back”
  1. Thor says:

    Thanks for passing along the lessons learned and solutions found!

  2. rob says:

    Cool. You are heading up into my favorite cruising grounds. Been to desolation and the broughtons a few times

    Love the blog and will be following.

    Rob (former coworker ;-))

  3. Brian says:

    I worked at a West Marine locally for a while. I’d guess that about 40% of those anchors that we sold came back with complaints of not setting. They’re very light so the flukes don’t put much force in to dig in, the pvc coating dulls the edges of the flukes that need to be sharp on a fortress to dig in. On top of that the coating stiffens the hinge joint to the point where the flukes don’t want to move to the appropriate angle. I got one from a friend because he hated it. I’ve found that if you cut the coating off the first 3″ or so of the flukes’ tips and run a knife along both sides of the shank pivot it starts to work a little better. Mine was galvanized under the coating, but I’ve heard they’re just painted metal underneath now.
    Good luck with it, and enjoy.

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