Category Archives: Madsu

Why We Love BC


Another glorious day on the water – the wind was out of the NorthWest at about 10-12 knots for most of the afternoon.

With a very light chop, it was another picture perfect day sailing.

While the Cat’s Away

I did remember to call my Mom back in Manitoba today before heading out into the sunshine.

It’s the first really warm weekend of spring here in the Lower Mainland, so I managed to convince EB to join me for a Mothers’ Day sail.

We had a pretty lively sail in the Southern Strait – the wind was just perfect for Madsu under 100% jib and full main.  We scooted along at 5.5 knots plus going to weather – and I actually had to get my sweater on – the wind off the water was a tiny bit cool.

But I had an motive for getting EB out of the house.  While were were gone, the boys fired up the Kitchen Aid to create an original masterpiece.

Happy Mothers’ Day to all you cool cats.

An Afternoon in Under 2 Minutes

Here’s a video of an afternoon’s sailing time lapsed out to a minute-and-a-half.

It was a lovely afternoon in Howe Sound, with a nice breeze from the Strait of Georgia.  Madsu’s under a full main and a 100% jib and moving along nicely.

The camera is a GoPro Hero2 mounted on a Horizon True hydraulic mount.  I’ll be experimenting with different camera placement over the summer – this was mounted on the pushpit, a bit to port.  The mount is a real delight, and now has its own Pelican case for bringing down to the boat.

This video is also on Vimeo.

December Sunshine

The view astern as we head into the marina after an afternoon’s sailing in Howe Sound.

December is offering up some glorious weather which means that I’ve been able to get some great photos and video footage for a couple of my clients AND some lovely days on the water.

Since I’m keeping Madsu in the water this winter, I’m looking forward to some double-deluxe days when I snowboard Cypress Mountain (overlooking Howe Sound) in the morning then spend the afternoon sailing in Howe Sound.

Sizzling September

It’s been a weird summer in the Lower Mainland.

But forget all that.  September is smokin’.

Record high temperatures, and sun sun sun.

EB and I finally managed to get away for a few hours on the boat this afternoon. Most of the homeward bound sailboats were motoring up the Sound back to Vancouver, but we had a leisurely sail in the light southerly coming in from the Straight.

Howe Sound in all its glory.


Finding Denatured Alcohol in Canada

UPDATE:  Captain Phab Marine Alcohol is no longer available.  In an email from the company in Aug 2021:  “

“Unfortunately we do not produce marine alcohol anymore, it was discontinued due to a Health Canada recall in Oct 2019. This recall was all stove alcohol across the country, not just Captain Phab.

We do however have a Lloyds Ethanol, which is essentially the same. Burns clean, and is used in boat stoves.

This comes in a 1L and we have stock.”

Original article below – and there’s a lot of great info in the comments.


Who knew that finding alcohol could be this hard !

My little sailboat Madsu has a non-pressurized alcohol stove made by Origo.

I love the stove – it’s super hot, needs zero maintenance, and compared to pressurized gas, is super safe.

The stove is responsible for making coffee, hot water for shaving, and all my cooking that isn’t BBQ;  in short, one of the most important items on the boat !

Up until this year, I’ve been able to buy denatured alcohol for the stove at one of my local hardware stores – Rona used to stock it with solvents and turpentine – and it was relatively cheap.  It was simply called Denatured Alcohol – a no brainer.

This year, I haven’t been able to find it anywhere.

So, I did a quick crash course on alcohol for stoves.

A search on the web shows that other people in Canada have trouble finding denatured alcohol.  Other than for use in stove, apparently bike folks use it to clean gears etc.

Denatured alcohol is Ethanol – grain alcohol that’s been treated to make it undrinkable.  It burns super hot and while not great for the environment, burning it is slightly LESS bad that burning other types of fuel.   Most places I went to looking for this fuel, including my local marine store (Martin Marine in North Vancouver) sell Methyl Hydrate, which will also work in the stove.   Methyl Hydrate is wood alcohol – if you’re old enough you probably remember using it in Bunson Burners in high school chemistry.

In any event, I was bent on finding denatured alcohol rather that burn methyl hydrate.

I thought I had found what I was looking for over at West Marine. They sell something called blue flame stove fuel, and though there was very little information on the bottle, I assume this is some type of ethanol mix.  I almost had heart failure when I picked up the small bottle (less than a litre) and saw the price tag:  $30.00. Burning EverClear would be cheaper.   Meanwhile, in the US, West Marine sells a gallon of  “soot-free alcohol” for 29.00 !

I’d almost given up, when I stopped by Steveston Marine just off Granville Island. They now stock something called Captain PHAB Marine Alcohol, from a Peterborough Ontario company, Captain PHAB.

It sells for $19.99 for a 4 litre bottle (that’s 1.14 gallons) and it’s a 90-10 mix (Ethanol and whatever they use to make it undrinkable).  The staffer told me that one of the reasons denatured alcohol has been hard to find is that one of the main suppliers either went out of business or stopped carrying it.

So, for all you sailers, campers and bikers – try Steveston Marine in the lower mainland, or check your local marine store and if they don’t have it, get them to order it for you from Captain PHAB.

As for me, I’m heading down to the boat right now to fill up my stove and perk up a pot of coffee.

I’m so damned pleased with myself, I might even shave.

Madsu’s New Navigation Lights

Catalina 22’s of Madsu’s vintage had very awkwardly sighted navigation lights.

The bow light is actually behind the forestay and stem head fitting – not the best for visiblity.  And if I happen to have dropped the foresail on the deck, the light would usually get covered up. (See if you can even find the bow light in this picture of Madsu at the dock)

The stern light was a bit better, though mounted on the deck port-side, and not always visible.  While legal, these old lights have always made me nervous, particularly because I love night sailing.

So, before putting Madsu in the water this year I wanted to install new fore and aft nav lights, up on the pulpit/pushpit where they’d be seen.

Finding lights at Steveston Marine was easy – I got some nice Perko lights on sale – but mounting them on Madsu’s 1 inch pulpit and pushpit rails would be the challenge.

Catalina Direct sells a pulpit mount for over 30.00 dollars, and given the shipping and brokerage, it seemed like a crazy amount of money to spend.  So I decided to make my own (and spend a crazy amount of time to save a few bucks).

A few years ago I had purchased some stainless rail mount brackets (for a the traveler setup), and still had a few extra.

What I needed was some sort of plate to mount the lights on.  So, out came the jig saw and a piece of aluminum plate I had bought when I made the backing plates for the new winches.

I cut the plates, thinking I’d use 2 rail mounts on the bow light – but later opted to simplify with one (a good choice).  A little work with a grinder, then a file, then my Dremel tool, and the plates came out looking pretty great.

Next, I tapped holes for mounting the lights, and for securing the plate to the rail mounts.  I (and others) like to sit on the pulpit on a nice summer day, and with the mounting screws tapped, there’ll be no bolts protruding.

I wasn’t really up for drilling holes in the rail tubing and trying to chase the wiring through – I ran the wiring externally and secured it with self-amalgamating (rigging) tape.  If it turns out to be a nuisance, I’ll chase the wires inside the tubing next year.

Now I’ve got an additional level of comfort sailing at night, knowing that Madsu’s bow and stern light are visible.

Bears With Me


All summer we’ve been planning a combined camping/sailing weekend with some friends of ours who are hard-core campers. They’d heard me talk about Plumper Cove Marine Park where I spent many a weekend this summer on Madsu.

Their family of five walked on the Langdale ferry at Horseshoe Bay, then took the water taxi to Keats Landing, then hiked in to the campground at Plumper Cove. While they were doing that, we sailed to Keats from Horseshoe Bay aboard Madsu.

One of the things our friends asked about were bears.  I told them not to worry, no bears on Keats, so they left their bear proofing gear (mostly food cache ropes/bags) at home.

We had a fabulous Saturday afternoon playing in the water – the cove really warms up in the Sunshine and it’s a treat to be able to spend hours and hours swimming in the sea in September in BC.

Sunday morning as we shared a cup of coffee at our friend’s campsite, the parks people came over to inform us that, in fact, a bear swam over from the mainland and was at that moment cruising the beach behind the campsite.

Much excitement ensued, including packing up all the food and bringing it down to the boat.


We left around noon, knowing that our friends, now without a speck of food, would be safe from even the hungriest black bear.  And we left Dane and the rest of the parks crew to deal with the interloper.

There was a decent inflow up Collingwood Channel, so we had a spirited broad reach in Howe Sound once we reached the channel, and it held up pretty much to all the way to Hood Point off Bowen Island.

Back on the dock at Horseshoe Bay, I was surprised to get quized about ‘the Keats bear’ by our friends on Sea Dragon.

Apparently there had been lots of VHF radio chatter about the bear, mostly warning boats anchored to keep a watch out if they were rowing to shore.

Through some bizarre alignment of planets, our friends arrived just as I was washing the boat down. They’d taken the water taxi from Keats back to Gibsons Landing, then taken a transit bus to the Landgale Ferry terminal, arriving at Horseshoe Bay just in time to catch up with us.

They fetched their car from the parkade and picked up their gear, and we all went to our respective homes to shower and tell tall tales about the bear we never even saw.

Once settled at home, I went out to dump some garbage in our big green bin, when I got a bit of a surprise.  Since we’re in bear country here on the north shore, we keep our garbage bin inside a shed.  While we were gone, a bear came by and did his/her best to try to rip the door right of the shed in hopes of getting at the bin.


The bear would have been successful too, had we not started using a piece of pipe, New York apartment style, to jam the door closed.  We’ve had the odd bear claw marks on the shed door before, but never a concerted demolition attempt.
Time for me to do a little work shoring up the door.  From the Bear Aware web site:

The rule of thumb is that if it can be dismantled using a crowbar then it is not bear proof.

All this just reminds me of how large our (by that I mean HUMAN) impact is on wildlife.

There is nothing at all unusual, at least for a bear,  about a bear swimming over to Keats Island.  It’s only an event because we’re there, totally unprepared.

Back at my place, the bear should be munching on the wild berries in the ravine behind the house, or even the apples and pears growing in my front yard.  Instead, these natural foods are ignored, in favour of human garbage, a meal residents readily provide, because its too inconvenient for us NOT to.

Cold, Dark and Snap

We went out for an evening sail a few nights ago – a pretty big change in weather from even just a few days ago.

It was cool and threatening rain, and despite the weather office removing the wind warning, it was still gusty with lots of chop.

Our friends didn’t seem to mind – they were just happy to be out on a sailboat an d with Madsu’s main reefed and the 100% jib hanked on, we were making pretty good progress to weather.

We were the only sailboat out and tacked across from West Van to Bowen a couple of times.

I figured we should head in before it got too dark and colder.  Reaching along the West Van shore near Whytecliff Park I decided to drop the jib and sail under main alone.  It was now pretty much dark,  and I dumped the main and lowered the motor to take us home.

Just as I pulled on the recoil cord to start the outboard,  the cord snapped,  right near the handle.   It must have been really frayed as the pull didn’t even turn the motor over, and here I was with the pull start handle in my hand, the sails down, and the motor not running.

Fortunately, we had done a few things right.  When I’m sailing solo I always give myself lots of room and lots of time to get stuff done, and even though I had crew last night, I’d done the same.

We were  2 or 3 cables off the shore, so had a bit of sea room – lots of time to get the sails back up if necessary.  We also were not on a lee shore.  Horseshoe Bay is a busy ferry terminal and I always raise and douse sails well away from the ferry track.  I was glad I had done so tonight, as I looked out into the dark to see the Bowen Ferry approaching.

I popped the lid on the outboard and realized I couldn’t really see too much in the dark, and wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of trying to fiddle with the recoil line in a sloppy chop.  The Evinrude has a great big flywheel up top, and sure enough, it’s got a groove built-in for wrapping a line.

The groove is quite narrow – probably the same as the recoil line itself which I learn later is 5/32″ line – and I don’t have anything that small on the boat.  I did manage to find a couple of feet of 1/4″ line in my skipper bag, and though it was barely recessed in the groove slot, I was able to wrap it ONCE around the flywheel.

One pull.

Two pulls.

With only one wrap around the flywheel, I’m not getting much momentum, but the motor is a notoriously good starter, so I figure it’s going to fire.

Should I choke and risk flooding it?

Sure, let’s choke.


One more pull.  Choke Off.

Pull. She fired right up, and we motored in without further mishap.

It was a good lesson though.  I’m always pretty cautious when dousing sails and motoring up to get to the moorage.   I’ve been caught on a lee shore before, and it isn’t anything I ever want to repeat, so I tend to give myself a lot of room – I was glad I did on this night.20090807_fray

No matter how well maintained your vessel – things break.  I keep Madsu is top shape, and since the outboard had been serviced in the spring, including a new recoil line, this caught me totally unawares.

What I didn’t realize is that the recoil line was chafing against the casing – there is a soft metal sleeve or grommet to keep chafe down, but it had worn through and the line was slowly cut through from friction against the casing.   I now have an emergency line of the right width in my bag, in case I have to use the flywheel to start up again.


Finally, I was grateful for a motor that starts well, and another good reason to keep it serviced and running properly.


This is the grommet meant to protect the recoil line as it passes through the motor casing. It’s soft metal, brass I think.

You can see how it’s worn away in one spot – that’s because of the extreme angle required to pull the line when the motor is down and in the water.  The starter handle sits tight against this grommet when the line is attached and I hadn’t noticed how it had worn right through.  Every pull was cutting through the line.

The Repair:

I did get a new grommet from Lorship Marine on Victoria Drive.  It’s essentially a tube, pre-flared at one end. You insert it from the inside of the motor casing, then hand flare the outside. 20090813_recoil_line_inside

Once I’d cut out the old grommet, I had to remove part of the carb in order to be able to insert the grommet through the casing.20090813_flaring_tool

Then I had to flare the tube on the outside – I found a flaring tool at Home Depot which got things started ok, then finished off withe some gentle work with the ball peen hammer.  I had to jam a piece of hardwood in to support the inside end of the grommet while I flared the outside. The flaring tool did an excellent job of getting a nice consistent shape to the start of the flare, and with some light touches with the hammer, I was able to get a really nicely shaped grommet by the end of it.

I had taken the motor off the boat and worked on it at home. It would have been a really difficult job with the motor still on the boat, so I was glad I was able to do the repair here, as opposed to while out cruising.


How Big is a Big Yacht? This Big


Archimedes is apparently one of the 100 largest motor yachts in the world, #75 according to this website.

She was anchored in Mannion Bay, on Bowen Island, late this afternoon. I saw her pull in so I sailed over to get a couple of shots. Note the swimming pool on the upper aft deck. Nice touch.

The yacht has beautiful lines. And she’s big alright. Over 222 feet, and sports two, 2-thousand horsepower Caterpillar engines.

I wonder if they were heading over to the Eco-Shed ?

(cross posted to


Go With The Flow

Howe Sound is a true delight at this time of year, as daytime heating affects the air flow up the narrow sound.20090519_howesound

The pattern lately has been outflow (northerly) winds in the morning, with the wind going light near noon, then a complete reversal in the afternoon to an inflow (southerly) building through the afternoon.

Over the long weekend it was almost like clockwork – on both Friday and Saturday I managed to sail downwind for a few hours, only to turn around and sail downwind home.

I’ve been getting lots of use out of my North Sails G-3 gennaker (cruising chute). I’m getting a lot faster setting the running rigging for the sail, so I’m using it a lot more.


On Friday I spent most of the morning getting my gybes down.

I had a distinct lack of confidence with the inside gybe – that’s where the clew passes ahead of the forestay but inside the tack, rather than bringing the clew all the way forward and around the tack. I know the theory but just couldn’t seem to get the sail around cleanly – a lot of it is timing.

The G-3 is very forgiving – fortunate for me – but after 4 or 5 ‘proper’ gybes I finally got the hang of it and now feel a lot better about having to do them quickly or in heavier air. The sail is so much fun to use, partly because Madsu behaves like a completely different boat off the wind when I’m using the cruising chute.


On Sunday the whole family was on board to enjoy the sun. We broad-reached north with the gennaker, then doused the chute and hoisted the 150 genoa for a leisurely beat home.

The wind piped up to about 15 knots and we had a fabulous trip home.

On a starboard tack with no-one below us, we cruised home at a lively 5 knots without a single tack. The only time I touched the jib sheet was to douse it when we arrived at Horseshoe Bay !
View Madsu in Howe Sound on Sunday in a larger map

Anatomy of a Perfect Meeting


I spent over an hour getting there, but who’s complaining. That hour was all sailing time, dock to dock, as I popped over to Bowen Island for a quick lunch meeting.

The great thing about sailing Madsu to a meeting ? Madsu is also the conference centre.

Its all room with a view.

There was loads of room at the Bowen government dock where I tied up shortly after noon. A few minutes later I was met by Bowen’s own James Glave, author of Almost Green and owner of the Eco-Shed.

We had a great hour long meeting sitting in the sun in Madsu’s cockpit.


It was impossible to resist the steady breeze ,so the trip back took a bit longer. I just had to spend a bit of time tacking my way towards the Straight, all in the name of processing the topics discussed at the meeting, of course.

I did have to tuck a reef in the main and Madsu did a nice steady 5 knots to weather until the wind started to go lighter around 4, when I eased the sheets and reached my way back to Horseshoe Bay at a comfy 4.5 knots.

If every meeting could be like this one, I’d be booking a whole lot more of them…


In A Mood


Sitting in Madsu’s cockpit patching a few small dents in the gelcoat on the cockpit lockers, I can’t help notice Howe Sound’s dramatic sky.

The day was a round-robin of sun, rain, thunder, and little squals.

Perfect really.

The patching I’m doing is really fixing old patches that have fallen apart. They aren’t big, maybe half the size of a dime. I can’t quite figure out how they were caused in the first place, a 30 year old boat has a lot of secrets to tell. Probably a dropped wrench or some other heavy tool. One or two of them look like they might have been from the boom, maybe dropping the main without the topping lift (my boom kicker avoids that altogether).

The wind’s howling again.

I’m wishing I was heading out instead of sitting here with a putty knife and sandpaper. I’ve got a couple of new jibs coming from Dave and Marcia at North Sails for this type of weather, and I console myself with the thought that it would be a rough ride today with my bagged out #2.

Patches done, I head up to the foredeck to soak up some of the late afternoon sun, the smell of salt water and sounds of the harbour surround me.

Perfect really.