I'm Matt, a software engineer and boating enthusiast based in Washington State (but on the move). I started Hermit Cove Boats, offering cool skin and frame boat plans and kits. Check it out!
The conditions for our crossing were perfect, but then they had to be. By now we knew this water well. We had seen it from the deck of Simplicity and though she was a large boat, she was heavily tossed. The previous day had been foggy and windless. The fog was just clearing. There was only the swell; no wind waves to contend with. We crossed from Turret Island to the dinghy dock in the small boat harbour in Ucluelet in just 3 hours. Upon landing we made for the Canadian Princess. The bar offers pints for $3.50 and each table has a nautical chart varnished into it. Our table showed us Effingham Bay and Turret Island. We ate our burgers and salad without delay.
We checked into the Canadian Princess for the night. She used to be a grand ship and she still makes for excellent lodging. Mostly filled with Salmon fisherman, we were warned that she’d be a loud boat first thing in the morning. We didn’t find it troublesome. And who could find fault with a boat that has 2 clawfoot bathtubs? We used a lot of hot water.
The next morning I visited the mechanic. My starter motor was in! Not knowing if the motor would fix my problems I had to be polite, which meant using as few words as possible. It will not surprise the reader to learn that this businessman, with very little to recommend him in the way of mechanical skill, tact, or wit, also has no competition. We might still need his help, sad to say.
Now the problem was to get back across the water. The wind was up. Our arms were tired. Could we get a lift? Steve Bird, the helpful and delightful harbour master, recommended Bryan of Subtidal Adventures. He would give us a deal - it cost more to charter the boat than to go whale watching, so we would go whale watching. And so we did. We put the klepper athwartships on his zodiac, loaded up our gear and his granddaughter, and sped off.
There were no whales around (if you want to be sure to see whales on your trip, listen to VHF 61a before heading out, the location of whales in this area is discussed on that channel), but we had a blast speeding right next to the same reefs that menaced our boat a few days prior. Sea lions played in our wake.
When we arrived at the boat Bryan asked how long it would take to see if the starter motor fixed the problem. He didn’t want to leave us stranded. I said if it didn’t work, we’d need a tow. Could he recommend a tow company? He offered to tow us himself. At the charter rate. Not the got-you-by-the-balls tow company rate. He could tow us today or later, but not tomorrow. We would call him after we tested the motor.
At this point it was 3 pm. The starter motor company on the east coast was closed. Which is too bad, because they didn’t include any schematics or directions. Never mind, most starter motors only need 1 connection to work. Which one? I needed to connect the battery positive to the starter motor in the correct place. There were 2 options. One was a bare nut and the other had a plastic boot and a blue marker dot next to it. The most likely case is that the bare nut is ground or battery negative, and the boot covered nut was positive. I tested that, it didn’t work. Ok, maybe just postive to the boot and the engine is ground or battery negative? That got a reaction, but the motor just spun, not engaging the engine flywheel. Hmm. Dammit. Ok, last possibilty: this motor has a solenoid on it that is not used. The old starter motor was of a different type. Maybe I need to engage that solenoid as well, and maybe that is what the negative post is for? I ran positive to both nuts. Still just a whir. The flywheel was not engaged. Dammit.
It was 5 pm. A 2 hour tow would need to start soon to be finished by nightfall. It would be expensive, but I didn’t want to let another day go by waiting for a solution. We, after all, are not Canadians, and must leave at some point! I gave Bryan a call. He came right out, and safely towed us into Ucluelet. It was a strange feeling, going 6 knots in a silent boat. We hung out in the cockpit with Haskell, sipping white wine (after all, I was not the skipper) and watching the sun set. I suppose it was a dinner cruise, the kind that is often chartered out of Ucluelet. That night we slept soundly at the 52 steps dock, knowing that by hook or by crook, some solution would now be found.