Thursday, 7 April 2022

The Sound of Repair

 Pender Harbour April 7, 2022

a broken forestay & Sail furler

We’re in one of Canada’s most beautiful harbours … in fact it is one of the most perfect harbours we’ve ever visited. But we are not enjoying ourselves on this beautiful day!

It’s a perfect day for travel or for scuba diving. It’s still quite cold out, and as algae relies on the warmth of the sun to propagate tiny seedlings (called Algae Blooms) they're not around to cloud our vision and also wreck the photos Larry takes.

Larry has just announced: “If I were a dentist, I’d be really good at this!” The sound of his dremel fills our small living space. He’s trying to clean the tiny holes in the fuel injector on our auxiliary generator which powers the dive compressor. Without the generator we can’t fill our dive tanks, go scuba diving or take underwater photos.

Boat repairs are a Constant in our sailing adventures. Since we stepped onto Traversay III in 2000, Larry has bought spares and equipment to fix almost anything on the boat. This includes main engine maintenance and repairs, window repairs, generator repairs, toilet repairs, windlass repairs and refrigerator and freezer repairs. 

We normally share cooking and cleaning while we're offshore, but if there's a major equipment breakdown, I take over all the domestic work so Larry can focus on the repair. He’s made many major repairs in the last 20 years while we were away from any outside help with repairs. He has actually repaired the windlass (the motor which lowers and raises the anchor) twice. These did not need to be PERFECT repairs, but they were good enough to keep us going when we were far from land or far from any help. We knew we were in precarious situations both times and we HAD to keep going ... once in Chilean Patagonia in 2010 and once on the Northwest Passage in 2013.  

On December 23, 2004 our forestay broke 400 miles from New Zealand. I was able to help with the forestay failure by circling around the mast about 30 feet off the deck while suspended by a line and sitting in our tiny bosun’s chair. With the heavy wave action, I felt like I was at the end of a clock pendulum making bigger and bigger concentric circles around the mast. I was trying to remove a length of rope which was obstructing a halyard which we could use to temporarily replace the steel forestay in the genoa sail furler. When you consider that the entire rig including the mast and attached sails could fall down, one of us had to be willing to brave the heights. The decision was made that I would go up, because I knew I wasn’t strong enough to turn the heavy winch often to get Larry up there. In order to free the halyard, I needed to use both hands, so I swung like a pendulum … into and off the mast many times before I finished the job. 

the 50' furler had to be stretched across the deck

I ended up with multiple bruises which matched the beautiful sunset photo taken that night. When we got into port after the 46-day 6,000 mile voyage to Opua, New Zealand we got out the replacement metal forestay that we’d stored and we worked together to install the new part.

Larry has a lot of equipment aboard and has been really successful in keeping us going when we have a breakdown. Even with the rare times when we’re close to a Boat Repair service, we've come to rely on ourselves. This is becuase of our despair at the poor service of some 'specialists' we’ve hired over the last 20 years.  Notable in this regard is the mechanic/welder in Iceland who told us that our engine was now 'fine' and that all the engine supports were 'solid'. Imagine our horror crossing the Northwest Passage as each engine mount broke in successive jarring accidents all the way across to Tuktoyaktuk. As we entered the harbour in September with winter fast approaching, we had to keep our speed to a miserly but safe 1.5 knots. At any faster pace, the seawater came pouring in. We could have lost the boat and (for me) it seemed we might even lose our lives. I thought we'd have to 'winter over'and so I started searching for a place to rent ashore.

But this is where the Universe Delivers what it Takes Away. A brilliant Canadian engineer named Radovan Sumara was in Tuk working that summer as an engineer for the Horizon North Barge Company. He came aboard and helped Larry take out and re-install the engine mounts having first taken them to the company workshop to weld them.  

Our 'Hero' Radovan Sumara

Wayne Hodgins

  When possible, Larry buys the needed equipment himself so we can be more self-sufficient. We’ve also been able to help out fellow cruisers in the wilderness who just needed the correct size of bolt to get going again. At Pitcairn Island Wayne on a Canadian boat called ‘Learnativity’ endured a flooded refrigerator. We were able to give him our spare (he later replaced it).

the morning after 

My own talents are more limited. I’m only competent to hand over tools and to use my own ‘auxiliary’ pieces of equipment. I’m quite handy with the pressure cooker, stove and my sewing machine. The original Singer (bought in 1975) was replaced 15 years ago by a Bernina quilting machine. These machines have enabled me to mend sails halfway through a long trip when we needed them.  In the accompanying photo I'm fixing a sail in Caleta Suarez, Chilean Patagonia. I have photos of sail repair in the Beagle Channel and in the Lofoten Islands of Norway.  I have even managed to overhaul our upholstery several times when I got tired of the 'old' colours and style and wanted ‘new’ furniture.

We feel fortunate that to a great extent, we have been able to look after Traversay III's problems ourselves. Afteer all, she's a GREAT vessel and has been equal to any of the sailing challenges that we've given her. 

On the Routeburn Track

Tuesday, 29 March 2022

Welcome to Victoria

Causeway Marina ... our winter home with the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority
You can see Traversay III as you go down these stairs
Summer floral displays
Our sunset view
The Salish Seawolf Visits her home territory

Seawolf at our dock

Wednesday, 16 March 2022

Our Pandemic Idylls

Traversay tied up behind SV 'Lapse of Reason'
 How wonderful to have a Boat Home and a dinghy and to be able to escape the Pandemic Woes which have ruled Our World. We chose to escape to the Winter Wilderness. The destinations we chose were free in January and February even though they tend to be crowded in the summer.

In January of 2021, we left the dock and made our way to Princess Louisa Inlet. We were shocked when we got there to find another boat at the dock. Duncan, Theo and Andrew were aboard and also escaping the city on a safe, wood-burning boat amusingly called ‘Lapse of Reason’. Instead of being stranded and jobless in the city, They had been exploring Wild BC. When we met them, they'd just been climbing the surrounding mountains, sleeping there in the freezing cold, and free-skiing down. We saw footage of their kayak passages in the Egmont torrents. We got to know them rather well because around the time we wanted to leave the Inlet, it froze over as a result of both colder-than usual temperatures and the large quantity of freshwater emanating from the Chatterbox Falls next to it. Our boats were frozen in, and it was impossible to leave safely so we had a warm and congenial time together ... sharing stories and food.
Frozen Princess Louisa Inlet

January of 2022 mimicked the 2021 scenario and we were lucky to find a similar solution. On Christmas Day, we took down our lights and headed to Montague Harbour where we were the sole liveaboard boat. New Years found us making our way across the Strait of Georgia, wearing many layers of PPE: in this case protective warm clothing and not medical garb. We made our way to the anchorage of Ballet Bay off Jervis Inlet. We had to keep a constant watch aboard for logs because even water-logged telephone poles can be barely afloat like huge and hungry missiles. We endured snow and very cold weather. Despite a number of residences and mooring balls in the bay, we were alone again. 

Ballet Bay
When it was time to re-provision and go home, Larry consulted 3 sources of weather information and determined that IF we wanted to get back to home turf, the only day in the proximate future which cited favourable NW winds on the Strait of Georgia would be January 7th. All 3 weather sites forecast 20-30 knot winds. This turned out to be false, although some later changed these to a more realistic ‘After-cast’. The winds growled at us as we lifted the Main. This unprepossessing sound persisted until we left the Strait. Of course, it was preferable to other strong winds in the course of our travels which seemed to scream like banshees. We started with a double-reefed Main and had to reduce further to triple-reefing as we broached 40 knots. Our speed was well over 8 knots for most of the day going up over 9.6 knots at one point.  At that speed, we were relieved when Winchelsea Control radioed back that they weren’t presently firing off any torpedoes!

With the wind behind or on the port quarter, we faced South for most of the way and the sun blocked our gaze from the overly plentiful supply of water-logged logs which barely grazed the surface of the Strait. We felt lucky to avoid log strike, and exhilarated in the bright shiny day and with the speed, the wind, the spray sheeting off the whitecaps and in the performance of our boat. It was a very cold day … only slightly above freezing temperatures. Hot lentil soup, a double-sided German hot water bottle and diesel heater made it all tolerable for me. As we sailed up to Dodd Narrows, a group of at least 9 stellar sea lions surfaced near us, snorting and frolicking in the waves with their noses above the water.  It was their kind of weather. We decided to start the engine to traverse the Narrows, and let out the full Main to reach our anchorage.

We had to lower the Main and anchor in the intrusive presence of a chorus of bobbing logs and detritus but eventually we succeeded and were rewarded with a beautiful sunset and more welcome loneliness in this beautiful spot on the gorgeous coast of BC. 

January 16 …  under way back to Victoria

The weather moderated, and we were able to take a few photos on our dives near Ruxton Island. 

February 1-24 2022

Cape Beale at the Entrance to Barkley Sound, Pacific Rim Park

We left our dock to re-visit the beautiful peace and quiet of Pacific Rim National Park. There, on the edge of the great Pacific Ocean we found the beauty which is difficult to find in our event-driven lives in modern cities. We had made several previous visits to this area  ... once in September of 1994 on Traversay II and on chartered Dive Tours with the great fish/invertebrate expert Dr. Andy Lamb. This time we were all alone for three weeks except for one short visit by a boat sent out by the DFO (Department of Oceans and Fisheries) which investigated us and found no evidence of fishing gear aboard ... just photos of the beautiful sea stars and underwater creatures we had taken.
Bat Star asteria miniata

Some of the species which are only prolific on the edge of the ocean are the 'Bat Star' which comes in shades of bright red (ahown here), teal blue, green, brown purple/white and mottled purple/red. 

Larry was able to capture photos of the green surf anemones on a dive during the high tide at Effingam Islet. We saw very few fish, a few nudibranchs and many of the beautiful and prolific iconic white plumose anemones which can be seen clinging to the underside of docks all over British Columbia.

green surf anemone anthopleura xantho


giant plumose anemone metridium farcimen 

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Our Book: Around the World with Traversay III

Aboard Traversay III at Causeway Marina, Victoria British Columbia, CANADA

Since we last wrote a blog, the whole world has been locked down. Larry has been spending his time working on various boat projects, including trying to make hardware and software to hook up with our failed sonar. I have published a book: 

 Around the World with Traversay III by Mary Anne Unrau

The custom-built steel sailboat Traversay III (launched in November 2000) has taken Laurence Roberts and Mary Anne Unrau  over 120,000 nautical miles and has crossed every meridian and reached latitudes from 65 S on the Antarctic Peninsula to 80 N at the northwest tip of Spitsbergen.  Ports of Call have included such diverse spots as Pitcairn, South Georgia, Hamburg, Darwin and the Northwest Passage with lots of places between. 

If you want to read more about our travels,  a Kindle E-book or paperback Around the World with Traversay III can be purchased at Amazon in Canada at this link:
in the U.S. go to this link
in England go to this link :
in Japan go to this link :
in Australia and New Zealand go to this link:

From your friends, Mary Anne Unrau and Larry Roberts

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

On our way to Port Hardy

The focus of this trip was to visit Haida Gwaii once again after 24 years, and also to bring our friend Nancy along with what had promised to be a most amazing time.
We have now been able to accomplish this ... our visits to the various sites were truly memorable. We enjoyed every one of the Watchmen and the animals we encountered, and we were also gifted with nearly perfect weather. Even on the one night when we had to leave our anchored spot near Queen Charlotte Village, we actually got to motor close (but not TOO close) to what we later learned was a large tourist hotel. It had 'slipped its moorings' and was proceeding - seemingly unsupervised - to an unstable resting spot on an island very near QC Village. It must have found its way in much the same fashion that those tiny pelagic jellyfish I see make their way - being driven by the currents.

We only found out what had happened a few days later when a announcement on the ship's radio advised all boat traffic to stay a safe distance away. There were issues - such as explosions (they must have been using propane for cooking) or hazardous materials involved. We HAD noticed on the Monday that we returned to QCV that the Oil Recovery vessel we had seen in Prince Rupert and several fast RIB-loads of workers were in evidence around the village.

Now we will have rather ugly weather for a few days. We are expecting to motor for 8 hours a day so we can get to Port Hardy on Thursday, when Nancy will be leaving to go back to Ottawa.

So farewell for now - we hope you have enjoyed our latest blog entries.

Monday, 17 September 2018

A Great Time had by All

Courtney and Tristan
Yesterday we finished our 18-hour crossing over from Rose Harbour by finishing up in Quigley Cove. We were greeted by Courtney on the deck of her boat ‘Great Blue Heron’ which was rafted alongside Matt and Joss’s boat ‘Nancy Blackett’. Courtney is a geographer by discipline, but is largely interested in all the marine and animal aspects of this Wilderness. She offered to come with us on a dinghy trip to see if we could find any of the wolves she had heard very early in the morning. However, we were anxious to relax after the long trip and invited all 4 young people aboard Traversay III for dinner once they had finished work. 

Quigley Cove is an offshoot from Laredo Inlet. This is where our friends Matt and Joss and Courtney’s boyfriend Tristan are currently working on a dive Survey of the Sea Cucumber population. The survey is principally sponsored by the Nation here in nearby Clemtu (this is who is paying them) centred in Klemtu but it has the nominal support of the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. All these young people have been well-schooled by their studies at the University of Victoria – and this is where we met when Nancy Blackett shared a dock in front of the Empress in Victoria four years ago.

Jocelyn. Matt, Nancy and Larry
The various First Nations in this part of BC (including the Haida over on Haida Gwaii)  had the foresight to undertake these studies more than twenty years ago … and so far Matt and Joss have worked on several species and we heard about this one and one which i geoduck clams (panopea abrupta). The ‘kids’ arrived with some amazing fresh scallops and two varied sauces. Even Larry ate them fresh, sliced and uncooked  – he who normally eschews any raw meat. Our conversation was animated by Joss’s description of their collecting procedure … she has a huge bag into which she stuffs all the sea cucumbers she can find – the mesh bag (weightless underwater) drags her to a stop when it catches on a tiny orange cup coral. By the time she tries to surface it ‘gains weight’ losing the buoyancy of the water and it can be 320 lbs!

 Both sea cucumbers and geoducks are staples of the diet here for West Coast Nations. Her descriptions of trying to cook and enjoy sea cucumbers (which seemed to turn into a sludgy unappetizing mass) and the way they vacuum up the geoduck clams (who have long fleshy siphons with foreskin-like outer coverings) were both graphic and hilarious.

These incredibly well-trained young professionals are even more discouraged about the state of the world than we are. Tristan – an ichthyologist or  ‘fish geek’ as Courtney calls him – described the awful destruction and havoc caused in Chile’s marine environment where Norwegian companies (having been shut down in their own country by increasing public knowledge and concern) emigrated to Chile (and Canada) - buying the cheapest and most dangerous forms of technology and causing further damage.

If you read our blog further back (while we were diving in Patagonia) you would read that the salmon industry in Chile had to be shut down some years ago due to fish disease. You would also have read that all the shellfish populations have been shut to collectors and fishermen by Red Tide.  You will also note that the only coastal fishing industry has switched to collecting the lovely ‘Centolla’ crab and these animals were much smaller than those we saw 10 years ago, and vast numbers seem to be sent off to Europe and North America. There seemed to be no regulation of the crab-pots (were they emptied at the end of the season, was there even a Season?) and there was no attempt to clean up the leftover mess from the Salmoneras. We saw waves of These problems are also besetting Canada’s coastlines. The Haida are among the only public body which are active in trying to stop the destruction. If you read this, look up the *MLSS* and join it – for a small amount you can be part of the attempt by people who really know about what is going on here.

In addition to airing their educated views about the state of the environment, we also managed to have a GREAT load of fun. It all started when – questioned by me about dietary concerns – Matt responded by saying “We are all vegans who drink only pure water!” He knows about my despair trying to entertain people who each have 3 or 4 DIFFERENT food prohibitions. It turned out that they now eat everything – even if at one time they did have vegetarian leanings. Being out in this wilderness with limited opportunities for provisioning - they have been re- converted to conventional eating habits. On the menu were the scallops (with white wine), a warm red cabbage salad with bacon, goat cheese and pine nuts followed by rotini with meat sauce and Larry’s Traversay III dessert (mandarin oranges, frozen blueberries and orange liqueur). We set out the red wine, and it was well-used by all.

This morning we said good-by with sadness (at least on our part). We don’t know when we will see them again.

*MLSS – Marine Life Sanctuary Society*

Saturday, 15 September 2018

The Weathered totems of Ninstints

Beams still upright from the long house

Nancy with one of the poles
We have just returned from visiting the best surviving remnants of a Haida village. The day has been windy, but gloriously sunny. We managed to find a safe anchoring site nearby, and walked the wooden boardwalk past the empty Watchman's cottage and over to the totem-filled site. The poles were upright and in good condition … they were slightly more weathered than when I first saw them in 1994, but perhaps some effort has gone into their preservation as this is the only site on our trip which is actually designated as a World Heritage site.

We took many photos, but unfortunately this is the best one that I was able to 'scale down' for the blog. I will replace it when we have internet access.

Later …

Leftovers from the whaling days in Rose Harbour
We are back in Rose Harbour after the 1 hr and 15 minute trip from Ninstints. Although we saw smoke curling from the fireplace, no one answered our radio call (often WE don't hear radio calls) and we felt unsafe bringing the dinghy in to shore as the water seemed very shallow. At any rate, we're very busy preparing for our Big Trip back to Laredo Channel. We'll leave here at 8pm and it will be about a 21 hour trip. We're looking forward to meeting our friends Joss Schneider and Matt Hopkins. They've been busy doing marine research surveys for the Dept. of Fisheries in this part of the world for the last few years. We saw them the night before we left for our trip to Australia and Chile (that was on May 1, 2016) so it will be a happy reunion. It's 5pm and I have just left the dinner (beef with mushrooms, carrots, potatoes and dried figs) happily simmering in the pressure cooker.
I'll go out to help Larry heft the deflated dinghy into the forward hold and the dinner will be ready at 6pm. That leaves plenty of time for Larry to do his oil change and for Nancy to attack the pile of dishes. Maybe I'll help today.