Duet holds her own with the big boys at Salmon Bay Marine
After a month or so in Anacortes, during which, amazingly, everything went fine, it was time to move Duet to Seattle, into the capable hands of Jeff Sanson and his team at Pacific Yacht Management . On our previous boat, we did almost all the work ourselves. We were either living aboard or the boat was nearby. We also supervised haulouts, bottom paint, jobs, etc. This time, what with Ron working and both of us over 1,000 miles away, we needed a surrogate on site, whether we liked it or not.
After checking with various Nordhavn owning friends, we identified Jeff as someone who could probably not only get the job done, but could keep us happy as well. Jeff spent a day aboard Duet with us in Anacortes, we were impressed with his skills and experience and so we retained him to manage and complete a long list of upgrades and maintenance projects. The list wasn’t overely complex, just a lot of items, ranging from large, like upgrading the stabilizer system, to small, like installing a ladder into the bulbous bow area so Ron could inspect the area and work on the bow thruster. That bilge is so deep that if Ron went in, he’d never come out again without a ladder.
We spent much time on our project list, including selecting parts which we thought might work for various jobs. We sent it all to Jeff. That was the easy part. The hard part was getting Duet the 80 odd miles from Anacortes to Seattle within the confines of Captain Ron’s schedule. Fortunately, Veteran’s Day happened along. Prior to that, however, we did spend a rather hectic weekend aboard wiring the new computer to the navigation equipment and testing said equipment. Everything, mostly, worked, so we set off Saturday morning of the Veteran’s Day weekend, south bound. Not having made the trip before, nor having cruised Duet more than about 15 miles, we were a little uncertain as to how things would go.
The trip is a straight shot, south down the various channels, across the terminus of the Straight of Juan de Fuca and into Puget Sound. One of the keys to cruising in the PNW is gaining a good understanding of current, otherwise you spend all your time on the wrong end of it. We got it partially right, we had current on the nose until we hit Juan de Fuca and then we had it on the stern. We managed the 80 miles in just under 10 hours, and anchored safely in Madison Bay, just across Puget Sound from the Ballard Locks. Pacific Yacht Management is based just beyond the locks, at Salmon Bay Marine (shown above)
It was a great trip. The weather was fine, the boat ran perfectly and Nancy only got mildly seasick and perked right up with an application of her magic smelly Odorease. Ron says it makes her smell like a koala bear who has spent too much time munching eucalyptus leaves, Nancy doesn’t care what she smells like as long as she doesn’t feel sick. Ron spent the journey getting more comfortable with the navigation suite, and periodically checking the engine room. The boat, like our 46 before her, took very good care of us on our first journey together. We spent a quiet evening anchored with the sea birds in Madison Bay and slept well.
Jeff’s team had sent us an outline of the Ballard Lock procedure, which was very helpful. Also, the commercial locks were closed for maintenance, so we at least knew that we were headed for the smaller, easier to use, recreational lock. We have some lock experience, having transited Great Lock on the ICW many times. Locks are not our favorite activity, but we set forth determined to do well. We arrived at the lock with little fanfare, holding station just on the far side of the railroad bridge, about 200 yards from the lock entrance. Captain Ron doesn’t like getting into tight spaces if he doesn’t know what is going on in there, as turning Duet around is not as simple as it sounds. The recreational lock is next to a damn, which serves as a spillway from Lake Washington. So there is a bit of a current running outbound to Puget Sound. That works well for us, as we can sit bow to the current and keep control easily.
So there we sat. The lock light on our end was red, meaning we shouldn’t proceed. A number of boats came in and either passed us to loiter in front of the lock, or waited behind. After about 10 minutes, a small procession of boats excited the lock, having come down from the Lake, and the light on our end turned green.
At this point an aside might be educational. On the East Coast, at least wherever we have traveled, the locks (and bridges) monitor VHF Channel 13 and the proceedings are directly by the lock keeper. Normally it is an orderly procession, with the first boats going in first, etc. Sometimes an aggressive or ignorant boater will push through the waiting boats and shove in front. Usually everyone tolerates this, unless the weather is bad, or we have all been waiting a long time. Then the conversation will become rather heated.
At this point at Ballard, we had several boats which had moved in front of us, to tie up temporarily to a small wall in front of the lock, rather than maintain station, as we were doing. So the green light was on and everyone just sat there. Several boats closer to the lock were waving at us, but we tend to ignore that kind of thing, as in our experience it could mean anything, from hello to something less friendly. So several small sailboats headed into the lock. At that point, we decided to move forward beyond the railroad bridge so we could see the inside of the lock better. Once we got a little closer we could hear some helpful people on a large Carver motor yacht, which was tied up along the “waiting” wall, calling “you are next, you were here first”.
In the meantime, the lock remained silent. Apparently Ballard Locks does not talk to recreational boaters. We can see the reasoning, e.g. there are so many boats going through they would do nothing but talk on the radio. It does make the procedure more confusing though, for first timers like us. Fortunately the helpful people on the Carver took pity on us and showed us the way. In our limited experience in the Pacific North West so far we have found boaters to be very helpful. This is not necessarily true of some areas of the ICW.
With the folks signaling us on, we began to slowly approach the lock. We were the largest thing in the area, and most of the sailboats were of the under 25 foot variety, so Ron was very careful with our rather substantial tonnage. Thus far we have been favorable impressed with the handling characterics of the N50, versus our 46. She is less inclined to wander and not as subject to any current from the stern. She is easy to control and easy to steer.
We think all of these improvements are due to several things. First her mass, she tipped the yard scales at 37 tons with about a quarter load of fuel and water aboard and no stores, versus the 46’s fully loaded 30 tons. Second, she has a flatter stern than the 46, which had a rounded stern, so there was more stern in the water on the 46 to get pushed around. Third, she has a huge main propeller and a large rudder, much larger than the 46. Finally, she has a powerful bow thruster, while the 46 had what could only be termed a bow bubbler.
We made it into the lock with minimal difficulty. When approaching from Puget Sound the boat is locked up to the lake. The recreational lock has floating bollards which move up and down as the lock fills and empties. This makes it easy to loop a bow and stern line and manage the boat as she ascends. We did have a little excitement with the lock wall, as the midships of the N50 at the pilothouse bulges out further than the hull at the waterline, where Nancy had set the fenders. Hence, as she ascended, the bulkward outside the pilothouse got rather close to the lock wall. A lock keeper and Ron sorted that out, while Nancy slacked the stern line to let Duet move slightly to port (she was tied to the starboard side of the lock) and reduce the chances of scraping her starboard side.
This manuver alarmed the small sailboat on our port side, to whom we must have looked like the oncoming Queen Mary. Shouts of careful, watch out, we’re down here, etc., alerted Nancy, who did her best to haul Duet back to starboard. Pulling Duet anywhere, unless you happen to be a tugboat, is not a happening proposition, particularly if you want it to happen fast. She will move, but very, very slowly. Fortunately Nancy had left a ball fender on the port side, so the sailboat was quite safe, even if her crew did feel a little overwhelmed.
Just after this procedure, Nancy realized that the Ballard Lock serves as local entertainment. She walked around the stern and noticed a number of folks, including a large group of what were probably Asian tourists, all waving and filming us with their phones. She waved back, and did not tell Ron about this until later in the evening, when we were safely tied up and he had already had a drink. He was under enough stress in our first lock experience, without knowing that he was on YouTube as well.
Everyone exited the lock intact and we proceeded about 1000 yards down the canal to Jeff’s dock at Salmon Bay Marine. This facility is a interesting redevelopment of old docks, including the shore warehouses, which have been redone into combination commerical and residential space. Each building comes with its own dock. Boats at Salmon Bay are large, as the picture above illustrates. We settled into our dock and enjoyed a nice evening watching the boat traffic parade back and forth to the lock. We also took a walk around to inspect our neighbors, which include the beautiful Nordhavn 76 Eliana.
The next morning we met with Jeff and his team, all of whom turned out to be specialists in one area or another. We reviewed our detailed spreadsheet and spent time with each expert on their relevent assignment. In the small world category, one of Jeff’s folks turns out to be the son of Don Stabbert, Captain and owner of the beautiful vessel Starr, which has voyaged far and wide. The previous owner of Duet served as crew aboard Starr when she crossed from Tokyo to Hawaii a year or so ago. Don also owns Salmon Bay Marine, so it’s all in the family.
After what seemed like much too short a time, Jeff drove us to airport to return to Lake Tahoe and Duet settled down for an extensive period of pampering. Our next log will cover our return some six weeks later to see how things are going.