Our 2023 Cruising Season Departure… And The Hudson’s Bay Rule

I’ve written about The Hudson’s Bay Rule (HBR) before in this blog.  My review is buried in a past Bloglet.  What I understand about the HBR… is its central purpose: to add a vestige of safety to an otherwise perilous journey… Any journey.

Imagine that you live aboard and operate a cruising trawler capable of traveling from Thither to Yon.  During the winter you stay at a permanent slip for… 3 or 4 months.  During the winter and early spring you work on engines, generators, chargers, battery banks and many other systems, getting the boat up to snuff. As you twist wrenches, replace filters, pour oil, upgrade the electrical, plumbing, and all other systems, your mind wanders.  You think about where you want to cruise during the upcoming season.  Different cruising destinations echo through the disparate arroyos that make up your sapian mind.  From their genesis in deep,  ethereal,  subconscious chasms, a few cogent thoughts swirl lazily into your consciousness.  Now and again you snag one with your handy neural net: ”How long will we be gone” is a common theme.  You consider the vast number of data points to consider.  Anywhere between the proverbial 3 hour tour and pack lunch, or 7 months and be ready for anything.

Lots to consider there, eh? Each duration has a level of self-sufficiency requirements.  From pack lunch to succesively longer durations. Each duration has its own aggregate complexity and issues to address preparedness .

Another minion of the deep swirls lazily to the surface: “What do I need to fix before we go?” There are others.  After much swirling, grabbing, thought, and contemplation, lists are created.  Hunter / gatherer missions are performed.  Items are added to lists.  Items are crossed off lists.  New lists are created. At some point an edgy level of readiness is gained.  Gatherings are packed.  Without fanfare or ceremony, the engines are started. All systems are brought on-line and tested.  Dock lines are untied,  and we depart.

Day 1:  A delightful voyage under sunny skies, light winds, chortling seas, a favorable current, the presence of an occasional pod of dolphins, and numerous cavorting seabirds.  We anchor Great Northern at a pre-selected, HBR approved location, 5 hours away from our winter dock. A celebratory bottle of wine is opened and the Captain pours a tot for his able, first and best mate, and another tot for personal consumption. Leo gets a small piece of cheese for his efforts.  Unlike our last Chi, Kai, Leo is not fond of wine.  But cheese, a fermented milk concoction, and companion to the fermented grape concoction, appears to be just fine with him.

A wholesome and nutritious dinner is prepared and consumed.  Post-prandial, and in a comfortable collective stupor… we sip a bit more Juan Gill and rummage through the day’s activities.  What did we forget to get out of storage or buy and bring?  What broke during the 5 hour passage?  How well did the battery bank and inverter keep every essential 120V appliance running?  Were the navionics systems well behaved? Wouldn’t it be nice to have…  We fall to sleep with those thoughts intertwined with the more important events of the day: The water-colors of a spring sky, the subliminal textures embedded in the clouds, gossiping and hunting birds, ships steaming to their destination, tugs pulling, logs set free from last nights high tide, eddies, back-currents,  and distant horizons.

Our planning / preparation / depart process mimics what we know of the legend about how Hudson’s Bay Company employees, in earlier times, dealt with their depart into the wilds.   It’s easy to send a few back to the Fort to retrieve an important item that was somehow forgotten.  It’s much harder when you are three weeks, two rivers, one mountain range, and five large lakes out from the fort and it’s re provisioning stores.  Heavy canoes,  the most likely mode of travel, do not paddle well upstream. So… camp for a day or two within a days walk of the fort and ponder…

Bottom line: it is much harder to effect repairs to a broken system, if you are way up North of Vancouver Island In British Colombia, suffering a breakdown.  Sometimes… available replacement parts, ships stores, zip ties, a few odd bolts and screws just can’t get the job done.  If I only had a…

At least you wouldn’t have to hop in your canoe and back-paddle 600 miles… Now you can hop a float plane to Vancouver or Seattle.  Still…

Day 2:  There we were.  Oak Harbor.  Five hours from “home”.  All systems go.  Nominal as it were.  “Woke up.  Got outta bed.  Dragged a comb across my…”  At any rate, after a lovely brace of breakfast burritos, Les and I prepped the boat for depart.  I turned on the plotters and put in a course through Deception Pass to Hunter Bay up on Lopez Island.  We lit up Ginny and the lads and boom shakka lakka, boom shakka lakka:  the plotters and all electronics blinked off.  That’s not good.  So Les halted the raising anchor bit, and I restarted the electronics.  Everything came on line… so we raised anchor, made our way out of Oak Harbor and continued our Northern voyage.

Just after passing the Snohomish Channel entrance.  I pressed a button on the 16 inch plotter and it froze up, and just to be rebellious, locked up the 12 inch plotter as well.  I rebooted.  Nada.  I unplugged.  Replugged.  Got some back.  Pressed a button and boom shakka lakka, boom shakka lakka:  Locked up and useless…

With the autopilot offline and no AI to tell it what to do, we started self steering.  Our charting system was dead.  No radar.  NO AIS!  We did have paper charts, but… well… sheesh!  The good: we were in a pilothouse trawler and we were warm.  We reverted to our backup navionics systems: Independent cell phone and tablet navionics programs. Both on, both with their own GPS, and both showing exactly where we were.  Both systems agreed.  Always a nice thing.

I broke out an old but very useful Nobeltec program on a laptop.  I has it’s very own AIS dongle. (A what?  Oh, just look up dongle)  So… between the three backup programs, we knew exactly where we were. The Hudson’s Bay Rule flashed through our minds.  Somewhere on page 2, paragraph 3 or 4 is a statement that surely applies.  We remove the fragile parchment from one of the chart drawers (Yes, Great Northern has those…), gingerly unrolled the brittle scroll and found what we were looking for.  On page 2, paragraph 4, sentence 3:  “If critical shit breaks, GO HOME!!!”.  A rather universal rule…  So we turned around, set a course for Port Ludlow and through our smart phones posing as navigational wizards, contacted our marine electrician Jo, who helped us line up an electronics expert for the next day to figure out what was wrong with our nav systems.

Half way home, the boat’s nav system decided to reboot all on its onesies.  Both plotters came on line and performed just as if nothing “bad” had ever happened.  No apology.  None expected.  It’s a boat after all, just displaying typical “all systems go” behavior.

The next morning, the electrician, Andy, arrived and we had a “what happened, what did you do” confab.  Within an hour he had figured out why the nav system crumped and fixed that issue.  And… he spent enough time looking at the nav system wiring to posit a “this is how to fix it” plan for me to follow up on.  Off to buy some needed parts…

The picture is worth at least the 20 mega- pixels it takes to display it:

6 negative leads were stacked on one post.  4 neutral leads were stacked on another post. 6 positive leads were stacked on one screw.  Yikes.  A severe case of mega-stacking.  And the 3 most important screws were loose… Far astray from one lead, one post, and using a torque driver torque to spec.

This is what it looks like now:

Negatives and neutrals are separated into individual screws on a dual buss. All positive leads have been routed through a separate line Blue Seas fuse block. Everything seems to be working just fine. Depth is sharper than it has ever been. Sea trial testing on 5/7/23.

The next bloglett:  A San Juan Passage, 2023

2 thoughts on “Our 2023 Cruising Season Departure… And The Hudson’s Bay Rule

  1. Are you sure wiring figure number one wasn’t designed and executed by
    Dad Frater?  Figure 2 wiring was obviously completed by you – very neat
    as it should be.


    1. It could have been… but there were no spring loaded toggle switches!!

      … Blair


      On Wed, May 10, 2023, 15:17 Northwest Boating Travels With Blair, Les, and


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