Let the Good Times Roll…

Our three week cruise in the Canadian Gulf Islands couldn’t have been better from a weather perspective. Lots of sunshine and very little rain make for a happy crew. We buddy boated with friends during most of the cruise and that was a blast too.

Our plans to head to Desolation Sound in BC were derailed when we finally got word that our new (to us) 2013 Entegra Aspire 42 DEQ coach was finally going to close. This deal had been 2 months in the waiting due to some issues on the sellers end and had been a source of frustration to us since June. That said, waiting wasn’t the big issue, it was the lack of communication from the dealer who had the coach on consignment. We held off leaving on the boat but finally decided that Fed-ex could get us documents somehow and maybe if we just took off it would finally happen.

Well damned if it didn’t!!! We finally got word the deal was ready to move forward just a day or two before we were going to make the crossing into the hinterlands of Desolation Sound. After some debate about how and where we could get the documents delivered (NO DOCUSIGN = LAME) we decided that returning to the US, signing the closing docs and taking possession of the coach was going to make us feel more settled. Plus, we were REALLY excited to get behind the wheel of our new rolling home, get her to Anacortes and start moving in.

We enjoyed visiting some anchorages that we hadn’t been to in years, some old favorites and some new places on the way back to the US. Pirates Cove is now on the list of favorites after a long hiatus.

I love the treasure chest…I think my glasses were a great addition!

A new favorite just over the Canadian border…Beaumont Marine Park. Great hiking, crabbing and fishing plus a mooring buoy field and amazing sunsets!!!

A deserted beach just waiting to be explored.
Exploring in the whaler…so much fun!!!

Another favorite we enjoyed was Sidney …great walking, shopping and restaurants. We had a great dinner at Sabhai Thai and a delicious lunch at Fish on Fifth. A day trip to Sidney Spit was very much enjoyed by Bentley who loves to frolick and play on the beach!!!

We ended the three week cruise with another night on a mooring buoy in Fossil Bay at Sucia Island. Crabbing was very good there so we came back to Anacortes with a full bucket of delicious crustaceans. I think they enjoyed the cruise back too!

Back on land, we quickly got possession of the coach which was in Poulsbo WA, got it settled into the storage lot in Anacortes and started moving all our stuff back in. We had boxed up and stored everything in the old coach so we could take it to consignment (not at the same dealer for sure). Holy Crapola, it sure is harder to move back in than it was to move out. I kept wondering out loud how we got all that stuff on the Cheetah. The new coach is five feet longer which in theory means there should be more storage …right? Not sure about that yet as it is all different storage inside and its like a puzzle figuring out where everything should go.

Yike…what a disaster!!!
So none of this was ours…it was all in the storage bays! 2 trips to the dumpsters, three trips to goodwill and a few things sold to make room for our stuff!

So you might be wondering why we “suddenly” decided to get a new coach…what was wrong with the other one and why this coach in particular. So honestly, there isn’t one thing that is wrong with the Cheetah…she has been a great starter coach for us. Our 2 month 101 road trip, in which we had a ball exploring the California, Oregon and Washington coast, re-enforced to us that we really love this lifestyle and hope to keep on exploring the US via coach and boat for many more years to come.
So that said, we just decided an upgrade to our home was in order.

So…TADA…behold the new Road House!!! Isn’t she pretty…

After spending three winters in the Cheetah Safari, we knew exactly the upgrades we wanted so that helped us narrow our choice to three models of coaches. The layouts were all similar but after driving the Entegra we were hooked. Entegra builds all of its coaches on a Spartan Chassis which is a totally different design than the Cheetah. Founded in 1975, Spartan has been a leading innovator in the industry. They engineer and build their chassis to feel like a luxury vehicle. Their innovations include the independent front suspension and the rear tag axle. These two features alone contribute so much to the ride and handling of the coach. Without them, you would experience harsher bumps, louder vibrations and significant drifting on the road. The rear tag axle was a huge selling point on a coach this size. What is a tag axle you might be wondering? A tag axle is a third axle located behind the rear drive axle of a motor home. It is a non-drive axle with one or two tires on each side. The main purpose of a tag axle is to increase the support of the chassis at the rear of the vehicle, allowing for greater carrying capacity and shock resistance. Since there is less overhang behind the rear axle, it makes for a more stable ride and an easier drive. Additionally, the tag helps stabilize the coach in strong cross winds plus when a huge tractor trailer rig passes us we do not even feel the effects of it.

We love the interior design of the Entegra which is significantly more spacious than the Cheetah as it has four slide outs and taller ceilings. The main living space has a L shaped couch we can both lay on, a gas fireplace and a stressless reclining chair which I have a feeling we will both be battling for.

In the kitchen, upgrades include a full size residential refrigerator and more counter space thanks to the pull out cabinet that makes the counter L shaped. There are so many accent lights inside the coach and I am still finding new ones.

Time to start personalizing our new home …adding some splashes of color!

In the back of the coach is the bathroom with two sinks and a bedroom with a king bed – YAY. No step up to the bed, which I grew to dislike very much. Since the bed sits lower, there is less storage underneath it – which is a bummer for sure. This coach also has a compact stacked washer and dryer as opposed to our all in one Splendide unit that we installed on the Cheetah. I liked the all in one just fine and the extra storage in the Cheetah where the dryer is now on the Aspire will be sorely missed.

Other upgrades – hydronic heated floors, a heat pump with three rooftop units for cooling and heating, side radiator, on demand hot water heater, loads of electronic upgrades, outdoor TV, heated storage bays underneath the coach with heavy duty pull out trays… the list goes on and on.

Like the Cheetah, we opted to purchase another gently used coach with very low miles. The prior owners bought it new, had all the bells and whistles added and sadly, due to health issues didn’t really get to enjoy it much. The interior still had original tags on some of the furniture, stickers on the fireplace and shades. In the kitchen, it was obvious that the convection microwave oven had never been used nor had the propane cooktop. Buying a good used coach means someone else takes the big hit on the depreciation and hopefully has worked out all the new coach glitches.

That said, we fully expect to have a few things to repair and know that we will need to replace the tires within a year. Low miles on RV tires doesn’t mean anything. With RV’s, it’s the age of the tires as large RV tires age out due to UV. The average life of a RV tire is five to seven years. If you drive a car every day, you’ll probably wear out the tread in less than five. RVs spend most of their time sitting still. So your tires will probably need to be replaced before the tread wears out. Maybe it’s cracks from the sun or maybe it’s sitting too long with too little air in them. When your RV tires hit five year in age, it’s time to think about replacing them. It’s even more important with the kind of weight and load that an RV puts on them. The Entegra is a big girl, weighing in at a whopping 46,600 lbs so she needs the best tires you can get to keep her safely rolling down the road. We anticipated spending a bloody fortune on new tires so that was factored in when we negotiated the price of the coach.

Despite the hassles with the dealership, we are thrilled with our new home and can’t wait to get on the road again. The sun is calling to us and like birds we will be starting our annual southern migration in early October. Most likely we will make a stopover in Portland Oregon to see friends and if the weather holds, we may hop over to Eastern Oregon and then drive down the Sierra Nevada/California route to Palm Springs. As a tribute to recently passed Ric Ocasek, we will be rocking out to the Cars …“Let the Good Times Roll” as we glide down the highways and byways in the new Road House.

Shore Leave in Ladysmith BC

Part of the fun of boating is exploring new places and visiting marinas that allow us to get off the boat and see some sights. Bonus points if there is a nice restaurant or pub nearby. Ladysmith met all the criteria so we were excited to check out the area.

The cruise over from Princess Cove was short and uneventful…nothing wrong with that. I had called ahead and made reservations at the Ladysmith Maritime Community Dock a few days prior so we were expected.

The Ladysmith Maritime Society which runs the marina is a 280-member non-profit charitable organization that has been in continuous operation since 1985. It’s really unusual to find a non-profit community marina and so well run to boot. The facilities are clean, up to date and beautiful with the hanging flower baskets on all the pier posts. The Oyster Café is housed in the community building that has a great room, laundry and shower facilities. Very charming and a easy walk to town where the 49th Parallel Grocery Store serves boaters and non-boaters.

Ladysmith has gained a widespread reputation as a picturesque, seaside community with small town charm located at the 49th Parallel. It definitely lived up to its reputation and we thoroughly enjoyed the bakery, butcher shop and the great grocery store in addition to all the cute shops on the main drag.

Ladysmith’s past is rooted in logging and fishing are is so many of the coastal town on Vancouver Island. The Ladysmith Maritime Society supports two neat little museums dedicated to the working boat heritage.

The other draw to Ladysmith is the close prolixity to the little art community of Chemainus. Luckily for us, the BC Transit System has a bus from Ladysmith to Chemainus for a mere $5 CAD round trip.

Chemainus’ claim to fame are the numerous and beautiful outdoor murals that you’ll find all over town! Look for the ‘footprints’ on the sidewalks that guide you to them … although they’re easy to spot without following them. Even the local Subway shop has a mural! This small community also has a thriving theatre culture. The Chemainus Theatre has a great line up of plays every year that people travel from all over the west coast to attend.

We put on over 5 miles trekking around town checking out the murals and shops. Thankfully, there was a great taphouse on our route so starvation and thirst was not an issue!

For all you non-boaters, Chemainus and Ladysmith are on Vancouver Island in the Cowichan Valley which is just north of Victoria. You can easily ferry to Victoria in your car or RV and explore all the natural beauty on Vancouver Island. The ferry system will also take you to some of the Gulf Islands which are well worth exploring.

Mining, fishing and forestry were the original industries that gave work to a diverse collection of people from all over the world including Chinese, Japanese, East Indians, Scots, and Germans. Some came to find their fortunes in the mines and when that didn’t work out they stayed to work in the forestry and fishing industry.

Billy Thomas is a great example of the local heritage. He was the first male child of European ancestry born in the Chemainus Valley, and lived here for all of his 102 years.

Of course, the Cowichan Valley has been the home of the original first nations peoples and their ancestors for countless generations and their history and lives became intertwined with all the various settlers and laborers.

So glad we finally made it to this part of Vancouver Island. Shore leave was throughly enjoyed by all including Bentley. He had fun swimming and playing stick on the beach which are his absolute favorite things to do.

Pretty Little Princess Cove

We spent the last three nights anchored and stern tied to shore in pretty little Princess Cove on Wallace Island. The cruise over from Montague Harbor was a short but scenic 8 nautical miles. We were fortunate to find a nice anchorage in this picturesque little cove. Because it is a tight cove, rings and chain are drilled into the rock cliffs for boaters to tie to with a stern tie rope. This can be a tricky maneuver if the wind is blowing or the anchorage is getting full. Stern tying stops the boat from swinging 360 degrees after you anchor and provides more space within the cove for more people to enjoy the park.

Once we get the boat anchored, Wally takes our tender, the Boston Whaler, to shore with the line while I attempt to control the boat and try to keep the stern (which is the back of the boat) lined up with the shore. Once he gets our stern line through the ring or around a tree if there are no rings, he has to bring the other end of the line back to the stern of the boat. Then we pull the line tight which brings the stern of the boat back, close to shore. Then the line is cleated off to the boat and we relax!!

In this scenario, it was extra tricky as we ended up moving further down into the cove as high winds were being predicted and we were rafting with friends. We both ended up setting our anchors, drifting over, tying the boats together with both boats stern tied. Our boat was taking the majority of the wind but with two anchors down and two stern tie lines back to shore, we were snugly set for the next few nights. Damn wind never got too bad but there were some big gusts.

Securely anchored and stern tied.

Wallace Island Marine Provincial Park, located in beautiful Trincomali Channel between the northern ends of Saltspring Island and Galiano Island, is a popular destination for boaters and kayakers exploring the southern Gulf Islands. We like the intimate protected cove that gives us access to numerous beaches and offshore islets that provide plenty of sheltered paddling opportunities in this picturesque park. Bald eagles, black-tailed deer and mink are common in the park, as well as harbour seals, sea lions and river otters, which can often be spotted offshore.

This park has limited development which is just what we like, but offers opportunities for swimming, fishing, kayaking, wildlife viewing and hiking. Walking trails will take you throughout most of the park, providing views of the folded rock formations that compose the island. Facilities are limited to an information shelter, pit toilets, picnic tables and 18 walk-in campsites at the designated camping areas of Conover Point, Chivers Point and Cabin Bay if you can get there by boat. A small dock is available at Conover Cove, as well as an octagonal dingy dock at Princess Cove. Sheltered anchorage and stern tie rings are available in Conover Cove and Princess Cove.

Conover Cove on the south end of Wallace Island

This island, originally charted as “Narrow Island”, was named after Capt. Wallace Houstoun, who first surveyed the area in the 1850s. Twisted fruit trees mark the remnants of the garden and orchard planted by Jeremiah Chivers, a Scotsman who retired here after unsuccessful adventures in the interior gold rushes. Chivers lived alone on the island, never marrying, and died here in 1927 at the age of 92. I find the history of these islands and people who lived on them fascinating.

After the Second World War, David Conover purchased the island and moved here with his wife Jeanne. The couple developed a very successful holiday resort on Wallace Island, and Conover became a successful author, writing four books – “Once Upon An Island”, “One Man’s Island”, “Sitting On A Saltspring” and “Finding Marilyn, A Resource”. In the first two books he described the couple’s struggles and joys after their purchase of the land in 1946. Their resort, the Royal Cedar Cottages, was advertised as having “a modern well-stocked store, cabins, recreation hall and boat rentals.” In the mid to late 1960s, Conover sold the majority of the island to a group of teachers from Seattle. Disagreements among the owners led to court proceedings and the property was again put up for sale. Wallace Island was purchased through the court ordered sale and became a provincial marine park in 1990 through the cooperative efforts of the provincial government and BC Marine Parks Forever. So glad the island fell into the Marine Parks system.

Our three days in pretty little Princess Cove were very relaxing despite the big wind predictions. We hiked, kayaked, played cards, read books, drank some wine (of course) and shared some delicious meals with our friends. Wally and I also went on a whaler exploration to nearby Thetis Island to check out Telegraph Harbor and have lunch at the pub.

The pub at Telegraph Harbor.. darn good fish and chips!

Next stop Lady Smith….

Hanging On The Hook At Montague Harbor

From Sucia Island in the US it is just under 30 nautical miles to Montague Harbor in the Canadian Gulf Islands. On a calm day, crossing Boundry Pass is easy, just some gentle swells. On a windy day, this crossing can get really whipped up. The biggest obstacle is tankers or massive freighters bound for Bellingham Washington. They churn up huge wakes that can easily swamp a small boat and they don’t slow down for anyone. Get in their way and you will get blasted with 3 short horn pulls. LOUD – yes it is and we have seen this happen when a small craft gets too close. We give them wide berth and luckily didn’t encounter any on our calm, easy crossing.

Montague Harbor in the Canadian Gulf Island is a popular destination year around. There is a mooring buoy field, a provincial park, a small marina with a restaurant and store. On this stay, we met friends from the US and rafted together in the back of the bay.

Montague Harbor is off Galiano Island which is easily accessed by non-boaters by taking the ferry from the mainland Vancouver BC area. This is a great island to explore by car or scooter, which we have done in the past. There are some great hikes and a few decent restaurants inland. We heard there is a newer restaurant with a three star Michelin Chef on staff. Without a rental scooter or car, one can get to the Hummingbird Pub via the Tommy Transit bus that stops at the park near the marina.

A ride with Tommy from the Montague Marina to the Pub starts with Tommy’s big greeting when you board. His long gray hair flows out from under a big hat. Hawaiian shirt, yep thats his uniforms. Soon the music begins. For an old school bus, it has a pretty awesome sound system. As you board the bus, Tommy hands out tambourines, maracas, shakers and even spoons to anyone with a desire to shake their booty. Me, I play a. mean tambourine, especially after a few beers! Above Tommy’s seat is a percussion section mounted to the bus with cymbals, cow bells and drum boxes. Tommy drives with a drum stick in one hand, steering down the windy island road with the other. Pretty soon the whole bus is playing along with Tommy as he comes over the sound system with his insight on island living and the art of gratitude. On our trip to the pub, he started the ride with the song “Drunken Sailor” which of course had us all singly along gleefully.

Taking the bus to the Hummingbird pub is always an adventure.

Tommy announced his intentions for a second retirement. He has written a book about his bus adventures and how gratitude can change the world. Check it on on Amazon…”Tommy Transit’s Bus Tales”. What a cool dude…

Tommy likes to rock out on the drive to the pub and playing and playing an instrument that he gladly provides is always an option!!!

The Provincial Park has some nice beaches, hiking trails, and a great campground. Of course, you need a boat or have to take the ferry to get to Galiano Island from the mainland. If you have never been to the Canadian Gulf Islands, you should put it on your list of places to see.

Rafting with friends is part of the fun of boating. Sharing meals, card games, chocolate or just hanging and reading a book is easier when you can walk across the swimstep of each other’s boats. Forgot something, herbs, olive oil, underwear ?? Usually between all of us someone will have it.

Heading to shore to catch the bus to the Hummingbird Pub.

Beach House Is On The Move

We left Anacortes late afternoon yesterday under clear blue skies and light wind. Our destination was Sucia Island which would set us up nicely to head into Canada the Tuesday.

The photo above is a screen shot of our route.

During the 20 nautical mile cruise we saw porpoise feeding and frolicking. Seeing them feels like a good luck sign to us!

We headed into Echo Bay, dropped the hook and relaxed in the rear cockpit with just an cocktail.

Dinner was a cracked crab with a arugula salad and fresh rosemary bread. Not a bad start to our six week cruise!!!

What a gorgeous near full moon.