September 19, 2017: Smoke alarms but no heat

Autumn’s showery chilliness was in the air as we rose to find ourselves alone in Royal Cove! A breakfast of cereal and tea, some reading, the sharing of Morning Prayer, the releasing and reeling in of the stern line, and the raising of the anchor preceded our departure from this exquisite anchorage at about 10:45 am under mostly cloudy skies. The journey to Port Browning on North Pender Island was a smooth and scenic one, and I took the helm, followed the course Walt had set on the chart plotter through a narrow passage between two rocky points of land, one bearing a huge gray house overlooking the passage, and watched the sea’s surface as currents darted here and there, sometimes stirring the water and impeding our progress and sometimes enhancing it. An enormous oil tanker passed us at one point and its wake caused us to bounce about a bit as well!

We docked at the small but attractive Port Browning Marina shortly before 1 pm with some assistance from a fellow boater and his wife, who helped with the docking lines. Walt made his way up the dock and ramp to the shore, registered our presence, and paid our moorage fee at the pub, since the office was closed. I served sandwiches, fruit, and tea for lunch, and, as the forecast showers began to arrive, Walt turned on the boat’s excellent Kabola heating system to warm the saloon a bit–and nothing happened! What now? We’d been having some minor trouble with it recently, but Walt could do manually what a solenoid was supposed to do, so we’d had heat whenever we wanted it, but not this time. I thought about being cold, and was thankful for layers of warm clothes I could don and for extra comforters to pile onto the bed and mugs of hot tea. Then I thought of the fridge water filter in the bilge beneath the companionway stairs that Walt has had to jury-rig because it can’t be set right until we are back in Everett and a broken screw can be removed from an assembly and replaced–this causes the automatic bilge pump to run more frequently than usual to remove the excess water that leaks in–a small thing. Next I thought of the power winch grinder that we haven’t been able to use because the head comes loose every time Walt tries to turn a winch with it and he hasn’t yet found a way to keep the head firmly in place, but he should be able to solve this problem when we’re back in Everett–another small thing. Next I thought of the digital fish finder Walt bought so that we could determine water depths at Braesail’s stern and avoid scraping our rudder’s trailing edge against rocks beneath the surface that are invisible to us–it worked beautifully for a time, and then, no matter what the water depth beneath it, the reading was always 17 ft. and Walt needs to call the manufacturer–another very minor thing. Now the Kabola isn’t working and the weather is chilly and wet as fall weather should be–a larger thing. Why do I always seem to focus on what’s not working rather than on all the systems that ARE functioning?? Is it because of all the disastrous news from everywhere–hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, terrorist attacks, school and police shootings, wars and imminent wars, plagues, hideous brutality? My heart breaks for all those suffering; I am making small monetary donations and praying and praying.

I tried to short-circuit these circling bleak thoughts by working on blog posts and writing responses to friends’ e-mails, but was failing, so I climbed out onto the dock at about 6:30 pm to take a walk around the harbor area. The melancholy clouds had exhausted their supply of cold tears for the time being, and so I walked up to the onshore pub, around to the outdoor pool (closed for the season), through some spacious tree-walled campsites,

A extraordinary Garry oak at the edge of a campsite that overlooks the harbor at Port Browning

and down to the long, gently curving beach, eating some wild blackberries and picking up some windfall green apples on the way. The beach was covered by a mixture of ash-gray gravel and cream and lavender fragments of clam shells and lined with large drift logs, among which small boats of various kinds had been left.

View back to the Port Browning marina from the end of the beach
The head of a drift log creature on the Port Browning beach

The air was fresh and very cool after the afternoon showers, and I dipped my fingers into the water, finding it warm because, at about 59 degrees F., it was warmer than the 53-degree air. I walked until rocks on the shore blocked my way and I had to return to the boat, arriving at 7:30 just as Walt sent me a text telling me that a great “comfort food” dinner of pasta alfredo was being served.

Walt had been working on the Society of Scholar Priests’ website through most of the afternoon and had been on the phone with the man who installed the Kabola last June, going through the service manual, tracing the wiring, and trying to locate the problem; both were stumped. The Kabola expert called Walt back after supper while I was washing dishes, and he and Walt started to go all through the fairly complex system again to try to determine what might be causing the general system malfunction. As Walt was checking wiring, switches, current, voltages, etc., the smoke detector near the bow cabin suddenly began to sound, though there was no sign of smoke. We tried opening the hatch near it and attempted to reset it, but it kept yelling, “BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!” Walt finally took it off the ceiling and put it outside in the cockpit. Then the second detector, above the pilot berth, began to scream as well, so we disconnected that one and banished it to the cockpit too. We still could detect no vapors of any kind–very disconcerting!

It was decided that the heating system installer would go through his information on the system, try to think of something, and call back tomorrow. Walt put the smoke detectors back into their places, and they remained silent; perhaps there was so much water vapor in the cabin’s air as a result of cooking the pasta that some particles finally made their way fore and aft to the smoke detectors–who knows? I worked on this blog post and some e-mail replies over another mug of hot tea, and we decided to crawl into bed early to warm up (the extra comforter was very helpful in that regard!). If we must, we will call in to clear US Customs tomorrow morning and then motor the six hours back to Anacortes tomorrow to see what can be done. This is our last day in Canada for now–HUGE SIGH–it’s hard for me to say farewell!

One thought on “September 19, 2017: Smoke alarms but no heat

  1. Apparently Braesail is resisting as strongly to being returned to Trumplandia as you are! (Speaking of which, although he’s one of the better Republicans out there, you might well have missed the news that Dave Reichert (R-8th Dist)’s retiring, so there ought to be some good opportunities in your copious spare time to go help with the Democratic challengers’ campaigns and help flip his seat. 418 days to Nov 2018–get crackin’!).

    Apart from the Kabola–which one hopes is pretty simple to fix, once you find out /what/ needs to be fixed, sounds like all the rest of your mechanical issues are going to be pretty trivial to fix once you’re back in Everett or someplace with a decent chandlery. Just remember: half the adventure in sailing is working around sh*t that doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. 🙂

    Your smoke detectors also detect CO, right? Sure it wasn’t CO they were detecting?


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