Day 1 | Flotilla to Alaska | Prevost Harbor to Ganges Harbour

Our plan originally was to make a really quick trip to the north end of Vancouver Island, then slow down on the Central Coast. Today we were supposed to run through the Gulf Islands to Nanaimo, so we’d be in position to run up the Strait of Georgia to Campbell River the next day.

The weather isn’t cooperating, though. The Strait looks too bumpy on Monday, Tuesday, and maybe Wednesday. So rather than going all the way to Nanaimo today (Sunday), then waiting for several days, we slowed our pace. We’ll explore the Gulf Islands for a few days, enjoy the warm sunshine, and head up the Strait when the weather cooperates.

Ralph on his new Nordic Tug 39, Jester

The only slight drama so far came in the morning, when Nereus tried to pull the anchor. The windlass worked just fine for the first few feet to get the snubber bridle off, but then went stone-cold dead when they tried to raise the anchor after that. This was not great news, as Nereus was hoping to make the trip to Alaska with the rest of us (of course), rather than spend the summer in Prevost Harbor with their anchor stuck on the bottom. Clearly this needed some immediate attention.

Sam had gone ahead to Ganges so he’d be there to help boats in to the dock if it was windy, and Kevin and Laura stayed behind to bring up the rear, which turned out to have been a brilliant plan.

A bit of quick diagnosis showed that none of the three control stations could get a response from the windlass motor. We checked that all the breakers were in the correct position, and the correct voltages existed at the outputs. We then opened up the up/down relay box and took some measurements there. On the high-current output side, all appeared well and normal. There was solid 12V at the input, and both outputs were at zero (because neither up nor down was being selected).

Our tests thus far had told us several things. First, the controls were not likely the problem because all three sets would not have failed at once. Second, since no voltage was being applied to the windlass motor, the windlass itself was not likely at fault either. That meant the problem had to be related to the up/down relay. With the output side of the relay looking good, we measured the voltage at the three control input lines. One should be ground (zero volts) and the other two should go to 12V when an up or down control switched on. 

What we found was that all three inputs were floating at odd voltages in the 5-12V range. Our suspect immediately was the ground. We temporarily jumpered a ground wire into the box (removing the internal ground wire from the outside plug and manually wiring it to a known-good ground).

Voilà! The windlass now worked. 

Of course we didn’t want to leave it working with a jumper wire going into the box and with the original cause of the problem unknown, so we traced the original ground wire back to a grounding terminal strip and found – a corroded ground screw that was not making contact. We replaced the screw with a nice shiny one, cleaned the contacts, and moved it to a fresh location on the ground bar. Putting the whole thing back together, the windlass now worked as expected and Nereus was ready to weigh anchor and get on with our adventure!

We have seen this kind of issue several times with DC ground bus bars on all kinds of boats (including our own). Over time, terminal screws will loosen from vibration and/or corrode, and equipment will mysteriously begin to misbehave. It’s a good and quick check to periodically snug up those screws, and it doesn’t hurt to hit them with a shot of WD40 or equivalent to help keep them dry and clean.

Nereus, with an again-working windlass

The trip up to Ganges—about 16nm in an almost straight line—was uneventful. Canadian Customs (everyone has NEXUS) was friendly and efficient.

Arriving in Ganges Harbour
Float plane traffic

Ganges Harbour looks different this year. Salt Spring Marina, right below Moby’s Pub, is gone. New docks were supposed to have been installed by now, but the project is apparently delayed (maybe a very long delay). Expect moorage to be more limited in Ganges this summer than in the past.

Moby’s Pub (red building) behind the former Salt Spring Marina.

Ganges Marina welcomed our group and we enjoyed the easy access to town to pick up produce, meat, and alcohol that wasn’t allowed across the border.

Later in the evening, we went out for dinner at Auntie Pesto’s…delicious! Tomorrow we’ll have another relaxed day: Ganges to Montague Harbour!

Today’s total: 15.9 nautical miles, 2 hours 1 minute underway
Flotilla total: 15.9 nautical miles, 2 hours 1 minute underway