Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Dockwise Experience - Part 2

It continued to be hard to sleep in—or conversely it was easy to get going early—due to the knowledge that Kavenga was headed north 24 hours a day.  Although the van appeared ready to start the 1500-mile drive to Gig Harbor, its registration had expired and we would need to take care of that in Arizona.  Consequently, we weren’t all that confident that we would beat the Dockwise Express to Nanaimo.  We acknowledged that we might have to store the van somewhere and fly to Nanaimo if we fell behind and needed to jump ahead.


We left the Adlai Motel well before sunrise.  We were pleased to find the highway construction for the bypass around Hermosillo was virtually complete.  That cut a half an hour or more off the time to Tucson.  Our first stop in Tucson was J J Tam’s, the RV lot where we bought Qualie.  We had them check the tires and install a new “house” battery.  Patrick, the manager, took care of our expired registration for us.  He gave us a temporary that was good until June 6th—enough time for us to get to Gig Harbor.  That saved us from having to go to an Arizona emissions test facility and then ADOT to get the registration reinstated.  That saved us another 2-3 hours.


During the drive up we discovered that the dash air conditioning wasn’t working.  Patrick recommended a place up the street near Famous Sam’s where we always seem to have lunch whenever we’re in Tucson (if you’re ever there, don’t miss it).  When we went back to the garage after lunch we discovered: 1) the A/C was not yet fixed, 2) they had scratched and gouged the fiberglass running boards on the van when they ran into an engine block while moving the van.  The lady who own’s the garage with her husband was very apologetic and was ready to have it fixed and repainted.  We told them we were in too much of a hurry for that.  So instead they gave us the A/C repair for free.  It remains to be seen how we will make out on this one.  They managed to get it fixed in another hour and we were on our way to the Tra-Tel RV park that we had stayed in twice before near the north end of Tucson.  We got in a little after 3PM and were soon doing laps in their pool.


Once again we were on the road before sunrise.  We had no desire to experience morning rush hour traffic in Phoenix so we took the 8-85-10 bypass through Gila Bend and Buckeye.  It was well on the way to hitting 113F in Phoenix by the time we crossed the border into California.  We were glad the A/C was back in commission.


Our next challenge was to drive by LA without getting stuck in its traffic.  We managed very well by staying north of town via San Bernadino and Pasadena.  Once we were clear of LA we found the Pyramid Lake RV Resort just a mile or two south of Gorman, California—very pretty spot in a box canyon.


Our next day was probably our easiest as it was practically a straight shot north on I-5.  Our only concern was Sacramento traffic, but that turned out to be minimal as we passed through at mid-day.  Once again, we re-visited an RV park we had stayed at before, the Friendly RV Park in Weed, California.  This place has a spectacular view of both Mt. Shasta and Black Butte.  The only good restaurant nearby was the Dos Amigos.  We weren’t all that excited about having Mexican food in the US but the lady at the RV park assured us that it was very authentic Mexican.  She was right, it was very good.


By now, we felt we were well ahead of the Dockwise ship.  It was June 4th and the ship was scheduled to arrive on the 7th and unload on the 8th.  Consequently we felt we had time for a couple of stops.  The first was in Salem to visit Steve’s Aunt Jean and his cousins Denise and Kim and their daughter Katie.  We arrived in Salem about 11AM and stayed for an hour.  Earlier in the day, while we were driving through Roseburg, Kay had called her friend Laurie Singer to see what they were up to.  Coincidentally, they were in their RV on their way south, planning to spend the night in Oregon City.  We rendezvoused with them at the Clackamette State Park and went to MacDonalds for lunch.


Then it was on to Gig Harbor.  Fortunately it was Sunday and so we didn’t have to worry about rush hour traffic on the Narrows Bridge.  By mid afternoon we rolled into town and made a quick stop at our storage unit to pick up some warm clothes.  Then it was on to our home base, Murphy’s Landing Marina.  In the parking lot we ran into many friends: Don Conaway, Marc Skea, Pete Bare and others.  We spent two nights “camped out” in the van in the marina parking lot.  It actually works out quite well since we have the clubhouse there with its showers, laundry, TV and kitchen.


After one day of rest from traveling it was time to head on up to Nanaimo, BC.  Our friends Mark and Gail Learned from the marina (and also Puerto Vallarta) gave us a lift to the Greyhound Bus station in Tacoma.  Three buses later we were on a ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo.  It was a beautiful evening for crossing the Straits of Georgia—almost flat calm and a pretty sunset.  The ferry cafeteria also makes an excellent cheeseburger.


A little before 9PM we were checked into the Castaway Motel near the Greyhound Terminal.  It was clean and inexpensive, and had the Mariners playing baseball on cable so we couldn’t really complain.  But the nicer TraveLodge was only a block a way and so we moved there the following morning.  Since we were in Nanaimo a day ahead of the unload date it gave us a chance to get oriented.  We found out where the ship was going to dock—unlike in La Paz, it ties to a wharf when it unloads here in Nanaimo.  We also found out where the good grocery store was and the location of some good restaurants (and a bakery with Nanaimo bars, of course).


The next morning we shared a taxi with friend Vince Moore of the sailing vessel Alaya, also staying at the TraveLodge.  When we arrived at the wharf we could see the DE12 there and Kavenga’s distinct gold mast rising up in her stern.  However, the gate guard at the wharf told us there was a delay having to do with Canadian Customs.  Well this was only a few days after several terrorists had been arrested in Toronto so a bunch of yachts arriving on a ship from Mexico seemed to warrant a little extra scrutiny.  We had our cab driver take us back into town where we could get a cup of coffee.


It wasn’t that far, so after killing an hour and a half over coffee we walked back to the wharf.  Customs was still not finished and so we cooled our heels for another hour and more.  Finally we got the word that we could go aboard the DE12.  We all signed a release form and received our keys and vessel documentation papers in return.  We were then told we could go down into the well deck of the DE12 to inspect the hulls of our vessels before they flooded the deck.  Kavenga looked fine.


About an hour later, the well deck was flooded and we were allowed to make our way back to the cockpits and cabins of our respective vessels.  We got a surprise when we opened up Kavenga’s companionway doors.  The bilge pump warning light was on and you could hear the pump sucking air.  Somehow the float switch that turns it on when the bilge water gets high enough had gotten stuck in the UP position causing the pump to run continuously.  Steve quickly got the pump turned off but one look at the battery monitor display told us that we had two banks of very low batteries.  Fortunately we had caught this right away and there was still time to do something.  The DE12 crew lowered a heavy duty battery charger that was then man-handled across the decks of two other boats to get to Kavenga in the center (of course).  We had time to put a 30-minute quick charge on one bank and to put a starting charge on it as we cranked the engine over when the DE12’s captain gave us all the word that the divers had removed all of our supports and it was safe to start our engines.  Thankfully, our Yanmar diesel started immediately.


No sooner had we gotten the battery charger off the boats than it was time for us to go.  Alaya and all the boats in the last row had backed out.  Instead of being first out in our row (we had been last in), we followed Amistad who had backed in in La Paz and was therefore the easiest to get out.  Kavenga doesn’t back up with any great degree of accuracy but we managed to clear the sides of the DE12.  Just to welcome us back to the Northwest it had begun to rain.  Along with several other of the boats that unloaded ahead of us we called the Nanaimo Marina with requests for berthing assignments.  Very shortly we were assigned to the south side of J Dock.  Less than 20 minutes after leaving the DE12 we were tied up starboard side to J Dock.  We got things more or less secure and then headed ashore with Vince to find a place to have a late lunch.  Our Dockwise experience was nearly over.


The only tasks left were taken care of the next day.  We reinstalled the bobstay and lowered the bowsprit.  We put the spray dodger back together and hoisted the staysail and yankee and roller-furled them.  By early afternoon all of the tasks on our To-Do List were accomplished and Kavenga was ready to resume cruising.


All in all, our Dockwise experience was very pleasant.  We certainly had a lot less work to do at both ends to prepare Kavenga for being shipped than we would have had if we had had her trucked instead of shipped—no unstepping and stepping of the mast, and all of the rigging work that goes along with that.  And while Kavenga and the DE12 were bashing to windward up the West Coast, we were having a relatively pleasant drive.


Now we have just one leg left to complete of our two-year cruise to MexicoNanaimo to Gig Harbor.  Thanks for coming along.




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