Friday, June 26, 2015

Our Alaska Adventure Begins

June 1, 2015
We are finally underway on our summer trip to Alaska.  This trip has been 6 years in the making ever since our children treated us to a National Geographic/Lindblad cruise of Alaska in 2009.  On that trip we said we would come back, but in our own boat.  Well, here we go....

We departed Seattle with out first planned stop at Sucia Island, our favorite San Juan Island.   It was a long day, but worth it with such a pleasant destination to look forward to.  Unlike our visits over the winter, there were close to ½ dozen boats already there either anchored or on one of the state park moorings.  But it’s a very large bay with plenty of room so we anchored and still had tons of privacy.  Thankful to be out of the city and in a more remote setting, we decided to stay for two nights.

June 3, 2015
Made the run from Sucia Island to Vancouver, arriving Vancouver’s False Creek  around 3:30pm.   I made the call into Canadian Customs on our approach, and I think reached someone who didn’t quite understand private boat arrivals resulting in a much more confused check-in than is typical for Canada.  Usually it’s the picture of efficiency.  I was told I needed to go to the Fisherman’s Terminal the check in. No problem.  We anchored up at the head of False Creek, which is right smack in the middle of Vancouver with great views and great access, especially to Grenville Market.

Entering False Creek, Vancouver, BC

I launched the dinghy and went the couple of miles back to the Fisherman’s terminal to check in.    Often times there is a dedicated, well marked dock for customs, but not this time, so I tied up and went up to the office.  The guy there said there was no customs office, and to call from down at the dock.  OK, that made sense.  The customs docks typically have a “Bat-Phone” that connects you directly to customs.  I must have just missed it when I was on the dock.  But no, there was no phone, no sign, nothing.  So I called again on my cell phone.  This time the guy who answered was well versed in boat arrivals and told me that I was already checked in.  Huh?  It seems the last person checked us in after all.  All they needed to do was give me my clearance number and I was done.  That gets printed out and taped in the boat’s window along with your entry date so any customs officials can see that you have already cleared in.  So, all’s well that ends well, and I was able to scope out the terminal and docks around Grenville Market which was handy since we were planning to return that evening to meet up with friends and fellow Nordhavn owners, the Kemps, for dinner.

Our next day in Vancouver involved a bunch of errands including a trip to a Telus store to get a USB data stick for the boat.    It’s a 3G/4G data device for the cell network that you normally plug into your laptop for internet, but we have a cool router on the boat that you can plug it into and it provides internet for the whole boat.  We have a Verizon USB stick as well, but the roaming rates are ridiculous so it was cheaper to buy a second one from Telus with a month-to-month plan.  We will be back in Canada in a month or two, and I expect again over the winter, so we should get plenty of use out of it.  Supposedly it’s unlocked so should work with a SIM card and data plan from other carriers as well.

Anchored at the head of False Creek, Vancouver, BC

Topping off the second day and concluding our stay was a terrific dinner at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club with other friends and fellow Nordhavn owners, the Talbots.  RVYC is quite the establishment with several locations around Vancouver including where we ate overlooking Vancouver’s English Bay.

As a little navigation side bar, back in 2011 on our Downeast Loop trip, we attained our northernmost latitude while boating.  While rounding the top of the Gaspe Peninsula, we crossed 49deg.  It turns out that Vancouver is almost exactly the same latitude, so from here on out we will move the record a little further north pretty much every day.  This trip we expect to reach a little north of 58deg.  In the east, that’s equivalent to the southern tip of Greenland, or the middle of Hudson Bay.


  1. Hi Peter,

    Thank you for describing and especially photographing your travels through beautiful country. You seem to have great weather as well!

    Regarding internet, is your router a Peplink one with an external mobile data antenna? Also, given V-Sat signal's blockage by mountains, do you have a Iridium backup (either fixed OpenPort or a mobile unit)?

  2. I'm using a CradlePoint router for the 3/4G modem. The modem plus into a USP port on the Cradlepoint. I actually have a USB jack on my console that runs back to the cradlepoint via a USB cable.

    Peplink more or less does the same thing. I actually have a peplink as well that I'm experimenting with. I'm trying to come up with data filtering policies that get automatically applied depending on which internet connection is being used. So everything would be allowed through if I'm on an unlimited wifi connection, some devices and/or web sites would be blocked if I'm on 4G, and pretty much everything except a few essentials would be blocked if I'm on satellite. I've made some progress with this using the Cradlepoint, but it is clumsy and very limited.

    My KVH issues got a lot better after arriving in Ketchikan and having an opportunity to call their tech support people. The device needed a bunch of updates and has been working much better now. But it is still god awful expensive to use and I need to get a solid handle on traffic management before I hook it up to anything other than my laptop.

    We also have a handheld Iridium phone, but it's 4x the cost per minute of the KVH for voice service.

    The bottom line is that I need to get all these devices streamlined and working.

    Speaking of traffic management, one thing I found is that my Samsung SmartTV is downright evil when it comes to internet usage. When I got on a paid but unlimited wifi service in Ketchikan, it promptly downloaded 700MB of who-knows-what. It's now blocked 100% from any internet access. The other two huge bandwidth consumers are facebook and the New York Times web site. When my wife goes on them 10s of MBs disappear in an instant.


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