Destination Princess Louisa Inlet

This July I finally made it to one of the Pacific Northwest’s premier boating destinations – Princess Louisa Inlet. Sheltered by Fjord-like mountains, the idyllic location is beautiful and tranquil.

Leaving Malibu Rapids heading toward Princess Louisa Inlet

Leaving Malibu Rapids heading toward Princess Louisa Inlet

Facing Chatterbox Falls from the dock

Facing Chatterbox Falls from the dock

The facilities, while remote, are well maintained. There’s a ranger’s station and home, though we didn’t see that person during our short stay. We were lucky to have found space on the dock, which only provides about 300′ of useful space. Were we forced to anchor a long stern line would have been needed to secure the KAYLA and keep is aligned in one direction.

Chatterbox Falls

Chatterbox Falls

The Falls, themselves, are nice, but not remarkable. They’re not at all very large. If you look up into the mountains that surround the small inlet you’ll see numerous smaller falls appearing hundreds and thousands of feet up. These, to me, were more impressive, and beautiful.

Water flowing from the falls

Water flowing from the falls

Glassy morning water

Glassy morning water

Small boat moored in the inlet with a stern line to shore

Small boat moored in the inlet with a stern line to shore

Majestic view of Princess Louisa Inlet

Majestic view of Princess Louisa Inlet


Walkway to Chatterbox Falls

Walkway to Chatterbox Falls

There’s a First Time for Every Boater

Every boater is likely to one day run aground, foul a prop and hit a dock a little too hard. This week I got to check-off one of those by getting a line wrapped around my port prop / pod after what was, otherwise, an awesome day of swimming in Andrew’s Bay on Lake Washington.

Photo Jun 09, 6 09 07 PMFor those unfamiliar with the type of line we use on our boat, the white part is supposed to remain inside the black part!

So, what happened? Well – long story short – we were out for an extended period of time and, well, nature called for Kayla. For some reason, dogs don’t seem to want to pee in the lake, perhaps worried that it will compromise the quality of swimming for everyone else.

Kayla ended up relieving herself on the bench seat in the aft area of the boat. No biggee. Everything is water and puppy pee proof. However, there happened to be a line on the bench, wrapped in a nice coil, that I felt needed to be rinsed off. So, I threw it overboard to clean in the lake. Guess what I forgot to pull up before enabling the engine and pulling up anchor? Yep – that line!

Luckily, the engine did not stall. Cathia and I were able to swim under the boat and cut the line, though not completely. Neither of us would make very good pearl divers. So, some of the line remained on the prop – stuck between, and on, the two props on the port drive (yes, there are two counter-rotating props on each drive).

It wasn’t possible for us to detangle it better. But, the engines started. And, we were able to head out toward our marina. At higher RPMs I felt a vibration I didn’t much like. No one else could feel it, but I did. And, I wasn’t willing to risk further damage, no matter how unlikely.

We limped back from Seward Park to Kirkland at 7 knots. It was actually quite delightful. The next day I hired a diver to jump down and detangle the line. At $150 for two hours of work I thought it would easily be worth it. Took Chris, the diver, about four minutes! Still, worth it. I couldn’t have done it myself.

Photo Jun 09, 6 05 04 PM

So, all is good and, hopefully, that’s the last time something like that happens. At least, it’s likely to be the last time it happens because of something stupid I did.


Boating First Aid & Fire Safety Course

I was recently invited to present a short, 50 minute course at a recent Sea Skills event organized by the Seattle Chapter of the United States Sail & Power Squadron. Drawing upon my interests and background as a volunteer Firefighter and EMT, I produced the presentation linked below.

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Providing useful emergency assistance while on the water mostly takes common sense and some very basic skills.

First Aid & Fire Safety: A Quick Guide for Recreational Boaters

If you have questions, suggestions, or corrections, please reach out to me.

Visit your keel – and stay dry!

Here’s a quick tip for satisfying your boating curiosity and, if necessary, shedding light on a problem you may, one day, encounter underway (such has hitting a dead-head with a prop, fouling an anchor line, or worse!).

It has to do with observing the underside, or keel, of your boat, and doing so while (1) remaining perfectly dry and (2) not having to haul your boat out to a trailer or dry-dock.

This past Seafair Sunday I decided to experiment with a GoPro HERO3 HD camera by attaching it to a utility pole and submersing it at the stern of the MV LAIKA. What I received was a pleasant surprise and, for me, a rare glimpse into observing our two Mercury I/O drives in action.


If you’ve watched any extreme sports these past few years (skiing, motocross, base jumping, etc.) or broadcast TV personalities reporting from inside a car, you’ve likely experienced footage from the amazing GoPRO (or similar) camera. This class of small digital cameras are fitted with incredibly wide angle, relatively fast, fixed-focus lenses. They deliver stunning HD quality video.

While floating 200 feet above the bottom of Lake Washington, just North of the I90 bridge, I decided to attach my HERO3 camera to a utility pole and submerse it under water. The brief video below demonstrates the clarity and quality of the captured footage. You’ll see our port-side engine, swim deck and one of the trim tabs. The starboard engine can be seen briefly.

If you’re familiar with the MV LAIKA you’ll know it’s outfitted with Mercury’s Axius computerized drive system. That’s why the props were occasionally spinning. The GPS-controlled “Skyhook” electronic anchoring system was running and the boat was attempting to keep its position. Note – it’s incredibly dangerous to be anywhere near the engines when this system is running and we would never allow anyone to enter the water while it’s on. Actually, as policy goes aboard our boat – no one gets into the water or near the swim deck when the engines are on and the keys are even physically connected to the console.

To date I’ve used  GoPro cameras to capture bike riding adventures, skiing and, now, the keel of our boat. They’re fun to use and you’ll find numerous uses for them – some entertaining and some very practical.

GoPro cameras start at $199 (you can pick them up online or at Best Buy) and current models use micro SD cards for storage. A 32GB class 10 card runs around $24 and can store hours and hours of 1080p HD footage.

A new way to maintain a ship’s log: Evernote

Maintaining a proper ship’s log can be challenging. It seems like something you remember to do well after you’ve left the dock and are heading home after a day of boating. However, the need to accurately record fuel consumption and purchasing, maintenance and other important events in a timely manner necessitates some sort of documentation model.

evernote_logo-300x300For two years now I’ve been using a combination of a traditional notebook ship’s log and some iPhone apps, such as The Boating Suite. Both have had their advantages, and both have presented challenges.

I’ve decided for our third boating season to begin using Evernote. The app’s simplistic model accents its elegance and utility. With Evernote I can create written and captured (photographic, audio, video) notes and assign them to a specific notebook. I can also tag each post with keywords that can later be used to rapidly locate specific entries.

So far I’ve been adding entries by snapping pictures from my iPhone of my Vessel View display (see below) and fuel receipts so I can record fuel consumption and costs. I’ve also been adding text notes documenting our guests and weather conditions. If there comes a time when I need to share maintenance records with a future buyer or service shop it will be easy to reveal them using Evernote’s search features.

Evernote Snapshot 20130317 160148

Evernote is free, widely available for desktop and mobile platforms and is fun to use. They’ve also teamed up with physical notebook vendor Moleskine to create smart notebooks which facilitate scanning hand-written notes that can be automatically captured, stored and searched within Evernote.

Also, the best thing about storing all your boat’s vital information in Evernote is that it’s with you all the time – and saved in the “cloud.” That could one day be important in the event of an accident or significant loss of equipment.

First cruise of the summer and a submarine encounter

We headed out from Lake Washington toward Lake Union, the Ballard Locks and Bainbridge Island on the first, official, day of summer. Weather was partly sunny (is this the only part of the country where we say that?) and warm (mid-70s).

Encountered some massive, low-frequency waves from a passing tanker that had our boat pitching rather dramatically. Slowed down quickly to avoid going airborne!

On our way back from Bainbridge Island, heading toward downtown Seattle, we encountered something we had never, ourselves, witnessed before – a submarine. Flanked by two Coast Guard vessels it was heading South toward Tacoma. We didn’t try to get to close because of its protected perimeter and the fact that we were in active shipping & ferry lanes. Still, it was impressive to see it off in the distance.

Submarine in Puget Sound June 21, 2012

Rough seas challenge a (short) crossing

What’s surprising, perhaps, is that the rough seas were in Lake Washington and our crossing was just the normally quick jaunt across the lake!

We had just left Carillon Point heading West for the Montlake Cut when the skies darkened and the winds started picking up. Before we knew it, and while we were in the middle of the lake, wave action had increased dramatically. Two to three foot waves with wind-blown white-caps surrounded us. Later we’d learn, via Cliff Mass, that 30-40 mile/hour winds had blown through the area.

We actually had to head North, away from our intended destination to align ourselves against the wave action to reduce roll (and discomfort). As we got closer to shore we were sheltered a bit and could approach Union Bay (near UW) more easily.

Impressive clouds near the 520 Bridge

Storm activity North of Seattle

Thankfully, by the time we had made it to the Cut we were sheltered from the fetch of the lake and waters were calm all the way through to the locks and even into the Sound on our way to Winslow.

Calm waters and a setting sun as we approach Winslow / Eagle Harbor

Leaving Lake Washington Friday was fun but also thrilling and, probably, the roughest waters we had been in outside of being in Puget Sound.