May 10, 2022 – The day we were supposed to fly from Phoenix to Seattle to get on The Secret and shortly thereafter begin cruising to Alaska.
May 3 – The day we found out Canada would not allow unvaccinated people to cross their borders.
It felt like a huge punch in the gut. The wind was taken out of our sails. The reason for buying The Secret was smashed. We bought the boat with the dream to experience the Canadian coastline and all the wonders of Alaska from the water. We had loved Canada so much on the East Coast during our Great Loop that we kept Life’s TraVails an extra 4 years to be able to return. Now Canada would not even allow us to pass. We couldn’t even anchor offshore enroute to Alaska! (You know, those COVID germs we didn’t have were going to crawl down the anchor line, swim to shore, and infect Canadians.)
So, we resigned ourselves to cruising in the Puget Sound (entirely in WA) for the summer and delayed our return to The Secret to allow the Pacific Northwest’s (PNW) weather to warm up and the sun to become more frequent. Locals say summer doesn’t begin in the PNW until July 4th.
For the next 11 days, we seemed to have rain, rain, and more rain. After sitting for the winter, it seemed there was a never-ending list of things to do/clean/repair – a main head leak, a leak of the holding tank into the bilge, continued attempts to get the ice maker working (Tom finally did!), and more.
June 4 – Our first guest of the summer, Susan, arrived. We wanted to push off the dock as soon as possible, but Tom could not get the generator started. Was it the solenoids? After replacing them – no. Was it the starter? Got it tested – worked fine. Wait…no…it was a bad starter. Should we get a new Onan starter immediately for $1,000 or a $100 one from Amazon (but only after another 3-day wait)?
June 5 – Just as we were getting ready to go to bed, Susan discovered a wet floor on the stateroom level. The main head carpet was soaked, and water had flooded under the sink. At least it was clean water. After cleaning it up, we finally got to bed after midnight. (Tom later discovered a valve under the main head sink had been plumbed with an incorrect fitting that gave way when Paula had filled the water tanks earlier that day.) So, yet another trip to the hardware store for parts before installing the new valve.
We finally decided to order the starter and go anchor without a generator in Lake Washington just to get away from the dock. On the first clear day in many and after a 2-hour cruise, we anchored in Andrews Bay, close to a lovely 2.5-mile walking trail. Though we only planned to stay 1 night and then move to another anchorage, we ended up staying 2 nights. Paula and Susan kayaked around the shoreline for hours and walked the Seward Park trail while Tom troubleshot the new hydraulic fluid leak on the flybridge. It never ceased to amaze us that some things were installed incorrectly which caused problems. Why, on a 42 year old boat, were things falling apart now? Tom added a vent to the line, which should have been there from the beginning, and no more problems, but it had ruined about $100 worth of paint supplies in the process.
Then we seemed to be having electrical problems, as, even running the engines to recharge the batteries, the boat wouldn’t make it through the night with an adequate charge. Tom thought we might need to buy a new battery bank to the tune of about $1,500-$2,000.
Paula took apart a pink umbrella she and Susan found at Goodwill to sew Whisper a raincoat, having walked her in the rain so many times she was tired of Whisper getting soaked. Check it out! Looked really cute…but alas, the rain came right through. Perhaps an umbrella needs to be stretched taut to be effective. Scrapped it.
When the starter arrived, we returned to Fishermen’s Terminal and Tom replaced the starter in the generator. It still didn’t work. Tom called Scott, our hero engine mechanic, who diagnosed over the phone that the problem was the battery. Duh! Tom was gobsmacked that he hadn’t even considered that possibility. Fortunately, Scott brought a new battery the next day which solved all our problems!
Can you understand why at this point, we were a little discouraged by the boat problems? The silver lining is we decided perhaps God had protected us from shoving off to Alaska with the problems we were having. And it was also about that time we decided to sell the boat at the end of the cruising season. We didn’t feel Canada would change their position on allowing unvaccinated people into the country and we didn’t want to pay for another winter of marina fees and insurance just based on the possibility. It was sad coming to that conclusion.
That day, we finally began cruising south to make our way to Tacoma where we would deliver Susan into the hands of her brother where she would spend a few days with him before returning to Phoenix. Enroute to Quartermaster Harbor where we anchored, Tom and Susan fished. Unfortunately, they didn’t catch, just fished. Susan called it “practicing casting.”
On June 14, we cruised to Gig Harbor, known as a rich kid’s town. The entryway into the harbor was so narrow we couldn’t see it until we got right in front of it. As we began entering at dead low tide, the depth gauge dropped to 7’. We draw 4.5’ and got nervous, so backed out, thinking we would wait until the tide rose. As we were waiting, a smaller boat came out and we inquired over the radio if he would radio the depth as he exited. He reported seeing no less than 15’, so we slowly entered again. Following exactly his route, we still saw 7’, but we made it in without touching the bottom. As soon as we got through the narrow entrance, the bay opened up into a nice, roomy anchorage. We anchored for 2 nights., then moved to the city dock for 3 nights before 1 more night at anchorage.
The waterfront part of Gig Harbor was very walkable with many parks. It was a dog-friendly town and we took many walks with Whisper and enjoyed the delicious wood-fired pizza restaurant, the bakery, and the Mexican restaurant. Our electric bikes allowed us to bike uphill all the way to a grocery store, where we also found and indulged in blizzards at Dairy Queen. There was even a Costco in bikeable range. At a Goodwill store, we even found a perfect raincoat for Whisper with a clear hood for $2. And best of all for Paula, there was a lovely yarn shop within walking distance, appropriately called Rainy Day Yarns.
After talking with Mike Bell, a DeFever owner, friend, and guru on electrical problems, Tom was advised our battery problems might be solved by equalizing the house battery bank. It was a process that took about 4 hours, but voila, equalizing of house bank was a huge success. The specific gravity in all cells went from 1200-1235 to 1275 in each cell, an average of 57 points. Our problems were solved and the batteries held overnight!
Paula began writing a document for the sale of The Secret. Discouragement was mounting and it was in Gig Harbor we bought our “For Sale by Owner” signs.
On our last day on the city dock, we met Kevin and Florrel when they docked opposite us in their 2018 DeFever 49RPH. What a difference in the design from our 1980 model! Notice how far back the pilothouse and flybridge are in theirs. We decided we really preferred the visibility afforded in ours, closer to the bow (plus we could not “afford” their boat).
As we left Gig Harbor for Wollochet Bay, we had the best view of Mr. Rainier we had seen. We anchored deep in Wollochet Bay surrounded by nice houses with kids from the yacht club taking sailing lessons all around us. We intended to spend a night or two but ended up spending 7 as we began doing prep work for painting the surround deck. The previous summer, the aft, dinghy, and bow decks had been repainted and all that remained was the deck surrounding the cabin. Paula listened to several audiobooks as she worked sanding, cleaning, and masking with Tom’s help, then Tom prepped and repainted the dinghy davit post, did some under-brow wiring, installed a bilge pump, and hard-wired a solar panel on the dinghy, and other unrelated tasks. The days were long (not dark until about 9:30 PM), so we got a lot done.
A week later, on July 8, we returned to the boat. Friends were due to cruise with us for a week 2 weeks later, so we ultimately decided to just stay in Seattle and work on the boat to make it the best possible for resale. We wrote up the ad, including all the items that went with the boat (many) and Tom posted it on our For Sale by Owner ads on DeFever Forum, Facebooks Trawler for Sale, Facebook Marketplace, and The Trawler Forum. We said the boat could be seen right away but no survey would be scheduled until Aug 1. Meanwhile, we went to work.
Tom discovered the starboard seat on the flybridge had some dry rot, so he replaced it with some marine plywood from Thomas Boat Repair. He scraped, sanded, and sealed the holding tank, installed a holding tank monitor, installed 2 LED lights in the engine room, cleaned the bilge, and other things that made the boat look better. We removed the bimini frame, now unusable due to the 7” snow the previous winter. We also packed up a large suitcase to send home with our guests to minimize our “stuff” on the boat when it came time to show it. The less cluttered, the better.
Meanwhile, besides cleaning the polishing the inside, Paula went to work spiffing up the brightwork (redoing the outside teak). She removed all the current Cetol (similar to varnish) on the port window frames, port rub rail, entry door bottom, Portuguese bridge rail, dinghy deck to flybridge steps, and the dinghy deck door and hatch cover. That, as you might imagine, was hours and hours and days of work that included using a heat gun, scrapper, and sander to go down to bare wood, then apply 3 coats of colored Cetol plus 2 coats of clear Cetol, each with at least 24 hours in between coats. But boy was it rewarding work! To revitalize the teak to a shine looked wonderful.
On July 18, we finally had our first response to our ads. It was a couple from Gig Harbor. We couldn’t make our schedules coincide for them to come see the boat until after our guests departed. But at least we had a bite, so we were encouraged!
Meanwhile, we got excited about going cruising with our soon-to-arrive guests.