Caching Out to Gorge Harbour

The destination of day 10 on our cruise was originally unplanned. My human dad is the cruise co-ordinator for this cruise which means he plans where and what the fleet goes and does, to a point. The humans can go wherever and do whatever they like, but generally the close knit fellowship likes to cruise together, and newer members like the safety of cruising with a group. My human had only pre-planned our first week, and then called a meeting of the humans (which is referred to as a “Skipper’s Meeting”) to drink some silly juice (Scotch) and suck on some smelly sticks (cigars) while they discuss where to go next. I got out a map and wanted to make sure they knew I had a few ideas of my own.

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Before we leave, My human mom decided we needed to come up with a squadron geocache in Melanie Cove and hide it. She hid it on the rock cliff behind our boats; pawesome view of our raftup from there. Minstrel is second from the left. She was a bit disappointed that we didn’t have a “first to find” token to put in it, but instead thought after we get home, she’d set out another geocache in Bedwell Bay, our favourite weekend anchorage. In that one, she’ll put a trackable and give it a mission to go to the Melanie Cove cache, and maybe even another squadron cache in Ontario. We’ll see. It may take a few years, or it may never get there. Claws crossed. We’ll be listing them on Geocaching.com soon.

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So the humans choose Gorge Harbour on Cortes Island. We had been there a couple of times before so I approved. But because we didn’t have the week planned, we didn’t make reservations at the marina, like a couple of the other vessels in our fleet did “just in case”, so unless there are any cancellations by the time we get there, we will be anchoring again. Maybe this time we’ll find the geocache that my human mom tried unsuccessfully to find the last time.  Paw paw for now.

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Geocaching – A Study in Electronic Navigation

381I often pawndered how my humans ever managed to find their way around out on the water without getting lost. I mean there are no roads or street signs to follow at sea. I eventually learned that they have special electronic devices that can display charts of the ocean and where the boat is on them. How very useful. They have several of these visual devices, of varying sizes and capabilities, which are either fixed to the helm of the boat or carried around with them. Even though human mom took a basic boating course which included learning basic navigation, she didn’t really put much more thought into applying those skills after that. To her, it was the captain’s job to figure out exactly where they were, and how to get where they were going, and she was the admiral. That was until we started geocaching.

Geocaching is about finding little containers of treasures carefully hidden all over the planet, in publicly accessible places like parks and hiking trails…and beaches! Well the term treasure is used loosely since one human’s junk is another human’s treasure, but you never know what you might unearth. Like a house has an address, a geocache has a set of GPS coordinates. You plug the coordinates into the electronic device and it shows you where it is compared to where you are on some kind of map, or chart in nautical terms.

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Setting up a geocaching activity for members to play on a cruise.

Since you’re given the exact coordinates of the geocache’s location, it may seem deceptively easy to find, but unlike a road map, you are not given the exact route to it, just a couple of icons showing your location and its, with possibly a straight line connecting the two. The essence of navigation is to get from your current position to a pre-planned destination, and then to return safely. However, there could be forests, hills, mountains, lakes, streams, buildings, or in nautical terms, `hazards`that you have to navigate around first in order to get there. Because of all that navigational uncertainty, the key to a successful find whether it be a geocache or some other point of interest, is education and preparation.

Do you understand what GPS is and how it works? Do you know the different types of maps? Do you know how to load maps and GPS coordinates into a GPS device? Do you know what a waymark is? Do you know how to create a route of waymarks? Can you export a list of GPS coordinates to share with others? Conveniently the Canadian Power & Sail Squadrons  & United States Power Squadrons offer in-depth courses that specifically teach electronic charting, electronic navigation, and navigation by GPS, and you don’t need a boat or be a member to take them. But unlike riding a bike, if don’t use those skills often enough, you lose them. Cue geocaching. The rewards of geocaching go far beyond the material treasures you might find. Lessons in geography, map reading, navigation, nature, ecology, history, physical exercise, fellowship, and the Golden Rule come to life and are far more retentive because of this any-day real world game. Of that I am certain.

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Writing 101, Day 3: Prompts come in many different forms. Sometimes, a single word is all you need to get your mind’s wheels turning. Here are six words: TREASURE, REGRET, HOME, LOVE, UNCERTAINTY, SECRET.  Select one word in this list that speaks to you in some way. Have you always wanted to write about that wrong decision you made? Are you a long-term traveler looking for the right city to settle? Do you want to write a poem about your relationship?vThe beauty of the one-word prompt is that it’s open to interpretation. What do you think of when you hear this word? What do you see? This word is simply the seed for your post: feel free to shape your idea as you see fit.

Bowers Away In Ballet Bay

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Meow at anchor in scenic Ballet Bay.

Ballet Bay at Nelson Island was our last anchorage of the cruise before we headed homeward. The shores are inhabited by human housing and our 5 vessel fleet was hard-pressed to find a good spot to raft-up that didn’t have an underwater (submarine) cable running through it. Last thing you want to have happen is the anchor getting caught on it. If you can’t free your anchor, then you might have to cut it loose. A bower is another name for an anchor carried on the bow of a boat.

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Anchor snagged on an underwater cable.

Actually 3 vessels in our fleet including Minstrel snagged an underwater cable while trying to retrieve our anchors. Even with beach signage or chart symbols displaying the international symbol of wavy line colored magenta or black trying to advise the location of cables, they can get out of position for many reasons. Luckily it was a thin television type of cable and fairly easy to bring to the surface to get un-snagged. However, boaters must be extremely careful  to not to break or cut cables, avoiding serious or even fatal injury if it whips free. Cables that carry very high voltage can prove lethal if they are cut. The tension weight of some cables can also affects the stability of smaller vessels with the risk  of sinking when attempting to raise them from the seabed. Damage to cables can cause serious disruption to communications affecting trade, international affairs, and safety at sea, or to some human’s favourite TV show.

IMG_3274Approximately 2.5kms north across Blind Channel on Musket Island was another geocache. Human mom didn’t have anymore pinback buttons to trade so she decided to use a youth sized t-shirt she had designed for a squadron initiative that said “I Got Caught Wearing My Lifejacket”. The geocache description said that the container had swag that was meant for boaters, and this seemed very fitting.  Both humans hopped into Jester the dinghy because this time human dad wanted to help find it. The location was breathtaking. At the top of a broad rock face was the marine park sign and the cache was easily found near it. Mom traded the t-shirt for a brand new fishing hook, but didn’t have a pen to sign the log book. Meowee, that makes 3 geocaches my trackable fish tag has visited on this cruise.

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Contents of “Musket Island Marine Cache” geocache.

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Looking Good in Grace Harbour

IMG_3244Grace Harbour is a beautiful anchorage, and offers shelter and protection from the wind and waves. The water temperature was a borderline 68 degrees F, but closer to the shore, the sun-baked rocks acted like a heater and made swimming and floating around them very enjoyable for the humans.

While human dad tried his luck fishing again,  human mom went and found the geocache which was just a short paddle by kayak across the bay. The location was close to the park information board and entrance to the trail that leads to a waterfall and lake. The humans had been here 3 summers ago and had a very refreshing shower in the falls.

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I want to go fishing!

When human dad returned from fishing, he had a very disappointing fish tale to tell about the big one that got away. A 25lb Spring Salmon that, just before human dad could get the net under, spat out the hook out at him, and swam away. If he had just let me go with him like I tried to do, I could have helped and maybe we’d be telling a very different tale today.

The other humans decided to dine at a popular restaurant called the Laughing Oyster, about a 20 minute dinghy ride south in the Malaspina Inlet. Oysters are very abundant in these waters but my humans don’t care for them so I have no idea if they are good or not.

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Contents of “Grace Land” geocache.

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Our Raft-up in Grace Harbour. Minstrel is on the left.

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Gauging the Sea Conditions

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GPS Motion X app for iPhone. Marina top left corner, waypoint marker for geocache in yellow.

There was no cellular service in Gorge Harbour but human mom checked before we arrived and knew there was a geocache in the area. The marina had a strict check out time so she only had about an hour to kayak over to the island, find it, and return before we had to leave. She had manually put the GPS coordinates into her iPhone Motion X app as a waypoint, and was able to navigate offline to the location. The GPS works without cellular service. Unfortunately she couldn’t find it because she forgot to write down the clues. She’s sure she would have found it if she had a bit more time because she was very close. She’ll try again next time.

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Gauging the weather conditions the old fashioned way.

As we left I checked the air and the sky to determine what kind of travel day we were going to have. Even humans used to rely on observation, patterns and folklore to avoid being caught off-guard by the elements before technology was around. This is how I do it. First I determine the direction of the wind on my whiskers. Easterly winds, which blow from the east, can indicate an approaching storm front; westerly winds mean good weather. Strong winds indicate high pressure differences, which can be a sign of advancing storm fronts. Then I take a deep whiff, close my eyes and smell the air. In a low pressure atmosphere, plants release gases, generating a smell like compost and indicating an upcoming rain. I also check for humidity. You can feel humidity, especially in your fur. If it’s curling up and getting frizzy, then the humidity is high, which tends to precede a heavy rain. Lastly I watch what the birds are doing. If they are flying high in the sky, there will probably be fair weather. Falling air pressure caused by an imminent storm causes discomfort in birds’ ears, so they fly low to alleviate it. Seagulls tend to stop flying and take refuge along the coast if a storm is coming. Birds get very quiet immediately before it rains. If you practice these methods you can become very attuned to reading the sky and air to gain the ability to predict the weather quite reliably. I was quite confident that the seas would be favourable as we headed East to Grace Harbour.

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Looking south on the Strait of Georgia heading east.

Just as I thought, the day turned out spectacular for the 3 1/2 hour cruise to Grace Harbour; a flat calm sea and a blazing sun. The humans got quite a bit browner after today, especially mom in her bikini. We met up and rafted with the 4 other squadron vessels that had left a short time ahead of us. Human dad headed off with his fishing gear again while human mom kept cool in the water with the other humans. Before long he was back with a couple more pink salmon. He’s my hero.

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Hanging around the fish cleaning table, watching the 2 freshly caught salmon get cleaned and filleted.

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Kayaking Kitty, Almost

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Helping with the prawns

Today was a good day. First, human dad took Jester our dinghy to pull up his prawn traps he had set out yesterday and we had success. Around 100 was the count, meowee! I helped as much as I could by sorting out the ones the humans would find too small for them…yum.

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Islet with hidden geocache in Laura Cove, Prideaux Haven Marine Park, BC

Then human mom went off kayaking to find a geocache in the next cove over called Laura Cove. The geocache was called “Tarzan Loves Peanut Butter” probably because it was a peanut butter container and you could get a good view of the rope swing from the little islet it was located on.

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Contents of Tarzen Loves Peanut Butter geocache

This one actually had a trackable travel bug in it, with a travel goal which was to get to the Oregon coast in the USA. That’s about a couple of weeks or more of travel days from here for us and since there are so many Americans visiting up here, mom thought if any of them found this cache, they would be better suited to move it on it’s journey. Mom didn’t find anything she thought I would like, but being a good Port Moody Power & Sail Squadron member, contributed one of her pinback buttons with the squadron logo and web site address on it.

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Peaches

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Ben

On her paddles, mom also met some of my boating furiends. Ben the black lab cross, and Peaches. Peaches was a rescue dog and has worked very hard over the past couple of years to improve her behaviour when she’s around other humans and furiends. When I found out they were here, I wanted to go visit them too so I jumped into the nearest kayak. To my disappointment, mom couldn’t find my lifejacket and it was getting too late in the day to go out again.

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Can someone please pass meow the paddle!

Tomorrow we are leaving the raft-up to head over to Squirrel Cove for a couple of days. Dad hasn’t had much luck fishing here yet so we will try over there. It’s about a 2 hour cruise with a stop at Refuge Cove to get a few supplies and fresh water, and fuel for Minstrel and Jester. =^,,^=

Bumpy Ride to Garden Bay

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Comfortable in my carrier on a bumpy Salish Sea.

July 31st we left on our 2 week “Northern Sea Cruise” with the Port Moody Power & Sail Squadron. Our first stop over was in Pender Harbour on the Sunshine Coast, one of our traditional stops on the way out, and back again on the way home.

It was a beautiful day but the Salish Sea was bumpy and the ride was rough. I don`t fare so well in those conditions and I tend to drool  and have other bodily reactions that are not befitting to mention of a cool seafaring cat such as myself….and it`s a 6 hour cruise. My human mom scooped me up in a blanket and took me outside to the upper helm deck. Even though the motion is more noticeable there, at least there is fresh air. I sat quietly with her for a couple of hours and then they brought up my carrier for me to lie in. Once we passed through Welcome Pass, the waves had started to subside which helped immensely. I was slowly feeling better and getting my sea legs back.

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Entering Pender Harbour, BC

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Waiting for the rest of the fleet to arrive at Garden Bay Marina in Pender Harbour, BC

To state the obvious, I was quite relieved once we were tied up to the dock at Garden Bay Marina. A few chews on my oat grass and I was feeling back to normal. We are here for a couple of days before heading out to our next stop. If you`d like to see where we are or have been, check out My Geocat Map. Mom will also be looking for any nearby geocaches and taking my trackable travel fish tag along to visit them. =^,,^=

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Geo-Treasure

Photography 101 Day 16 Show us something (or someone) you cherish, and get up close. Get close to your subject — either use the zoom function in your camera, if it has one, or physically move closer to it.


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Fish Travel Tag and TFTF SWAG Buttons

I can meow without a doubt that my humans cherish me more than anything. They even want to hang ornamental pictures of me on the Christmas tree this year. I have a few things I cherish too like my stuffed mouse and tweety bird, but mom got me into geocaching this summer and I really treasure my OceantagZ fish travel tag. Being born in late February makes me a Pisces, so the fish tag is a purrfect match for me.

What makes this fish tag so special is that it’s trackable. That means that all the places it’s been to can be marked on a map with a little icon called a waypoint. There is a website called geocaching.com that records the GPS coordinates of millions of hidden treasures around the world and each time mom finds me a geocache, she logs that my fish tag was there too. Mom could put my fish tag in any geocache and let other geocachers move it around the world, logging each location it get’s moved to…but she’s afraid of it getting lost. That happens sometimes. Instead it’s setup as a “collectible” and stays with her.

Mom started organizing geocaching treasure hunts for our members to play on our boat cruises this year.  You never know what treasure you will find in a geocache. Toys mostly: Match-box cars, lego bits, plastic animals, coupons, Kinder Surprise toys, feathers, bottle openers, key chains. Mom once found a band-aid which really came in handy because clumsy her got an owie and needed one. Some are too small to hold anything, but they always have a log book or sheet you can sign. If you find a trackable with a mission, you can take it out and move it to another geocache. If you’re lucky and are the first to find a new geocache, the owner may have put a “first to find” geocoin of some type in it. There are hundreds of different geocoins which are highly collectible, and trackable too. Some geocaches are part a series and when you find them all, you can send in a form to receive a custom geocoin reward.

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Ocean Suncatcher Geocoin

One rule of etiquette is that if you take some treasure from a geocache, you must trade it with something of equal value. To help spread the word of safe boating, mom had some “Thanks For The Find” (TFTF) pin-back buttons made up with our PMPSS logo on them as starter SWAG for our members to trade. Mom had heard the term SWAG before but didn’t realize it was an acronym for “Stuff We All Get”. She’s now in love with designing her own pin-back buttons and is in the process of buying her own button making machine. At our next Change of Watch awards night, mom will award the member(s) who finds the most geocaches with a beautiful “Ocean Suncatcher” geocoin.

Of course where there is treasure, there is also trash. To help keep the trash out of the oceans and our beautiful parks, consciencious geocachers take it upon themselves to remove any trash they find while treasure hunting.  It’s an ongoing environmental initiative aptly named “Cache In, Trash Out” (CITO) that is supported by the worldwide geocaching community. Mom has a geocoin to award for that too.

What’s the best treasure you’ve ever found?

=^,,^=

 

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Finding a Geocache “Treasure Chest”

 

Sea of Blue

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On the way home I was feeling a little blue that our sea-cruise was over. I loved the extra attention bestowed upon me by the humans, not to mention all the treats I received. I will miss my new furiends Tank, Skipper and Cloe, and my humans when at their jobs away from home and me, who were once just a tail-swish away.  The freedom of boating has allowed me to become a lot more accustomed to being outdoors, and it’ll be a pain to go back to window sitting….(MOL, silly cat humour!)  Continue reading

Garden Bay Greetings

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Alas my furiends, after a 6 hour cruise on fairly calm waters, we glided into Garden Bay Marina in Pender Harbour for the last 2 days of our vacation. A few of our PMPSS  humans were there to greet us as I guided Minstrel  into her slip assignment. Continue reading