As we are wont to do, we pulled out of our Lake Union slip utterly over-prepared for all possible contingencies, including a food supply in quantities to support the chance that we may well be enjoying ourselves enough to pull the tiller hard over and head for Hawaii. Heck, we had enough food onboard to spend a year or two exploring the South Pacific, or maybe the Inside Passage. For two people having provisioned at Costco I hesitate to blame the disproportionate ratio of the size of our eyes to the size of our stomachs, but I might point a finger or two at the dizzying and disorienting doldrums that are the aisles of this mega-mart. It also doesn’t help that in the process of taking stock of our provisions before the shopping run, we missed a few of the nooks and crannies into which we had stowed around 30 lbs of bulk food. We have found, however, that quantity is no substitute for quality and that the most prominent short falling of our gorgeously renovated galley is a lack of a first mate gifted in the culinary arts.
Although we didn’t wait long for our turn through the locks, we decided we might have rather waited as they seemed to be running at maximum efficiency to push through the summer traffic. Once all the skippers were settling in for the ride after the locks were full, the loud speaker hollered for three more boats to move in. As confused looks and a tangle of lines and bumpers passed between all of the vessels we bumped and leveraged ourselves into position. We’re going to miss all of the hubbub of going through the locks to punctuate all of our trips, but it looks like crossing the Newport bar may prove to be a close replacement.
Once out, we headed for an anchorage at Port Ludlow. We had crew onboard for the first leg of our trip. Between Heather and Brian, the roles of cook, deck hand, vocalist and photographer were all covered and then some. They more than earned their stay when breaded eggplant parmesan was served for lunch and dinner had two courses plus dessert. Having developed our own routines onboard with limited culinary diversity, verbal communication requiring only grunts and monosyllable commands and where marine life weighing any less than our own vessel has to have performed some fabulous stunt to warrant a photograph or logbook entry, it was nice to shake it up a bit.
We arrived the second night off Dungeness Spit and dropped anchor while admiring a gorgeously clear sunset over the lighthouse. We celebrated Heather’s birthday and Jed and I reminisced about anchoring here two years prior in similar conditions on our return from our circumnavigation of Vancouver Island. This time we didn’t have to listen to the late night dredging operations and had the anchorage to ourselves.
On Monday, we dropped off Heather and Brian at the Port Angeles bus station and turned our sights on the second leg of the trip. Since Quagmire has been in Seattle for a year and we have been in Newport, we haven’t logged many maintenance hours on her aside from her three-week haul out that barely saw her back in the water in time for our departure. We checked the engine oil and coolant levels and mount and the batteries and bilge pumps. We also picked up fresh provisions from the grocery store and topped off with water and I baked some loaves of fresh zucchini bread for us to eat when we were underway. We listened to the weather reports and, along with a few other cruisers, headed out the Straits of Juan de Fuca early Wednesday morning.
Jed and I immediately started our four-hour rotating watches. Silently, we both had concerns about this watch schedule because sailing for 24 hours is exhausting unless each crew can single hand the boat for enough of their shift that the other crew can sleep. The concern was, that in my multiple year trial and error period with seasickness cures, I hadn’t yet been out sailing without getting a debilitating nausea; I was especially useless the last time we were in open ocean swell. Although I am generally able to work through it, it limits my capacity to single hand the ship. I am not happy to be so utterly dependant on such a crutch, but with the aid of prescription Promethazine, I ran circles around Jed while he adjusted to his sea legs. By changing my own dosage in ¼ pill increments, I acclimated to changing seas in 15 minutes while for Jed the daily weather shifts threw him off for the entire next shift. We are both thrilled that my new capacity for motion will extend our offshore cruising range!
Between the new schedule that we barely had four days to transition to, and Jed’s ill-adjusted stomach, we barely put a dent in our food rations. I cooked Phad Thai Wednesday night to last through both of our shifts, and we were still eating left-overs on Friday. We also only got halfway through the first loaf of zucchini bread when, with the shifting and freshening winds late in the week, the oven passed it’s gimbled range and spat the rest of the baked goods all over the floor. For most of the trip, we subsisted on fruits, vegetables, yogurt, soups and hot tea. I’m beginning to think that if we could somehow accurately figure out our own food consumption, that we could empty out enough additional storage space for a library, SCUBA gear, a sewing machine, a vacuum cleaner, writing and painting supplies…maybe not all of that, but it’s is certainly in our better interest to figure out more realistic quantities.
Seeing each other only every few hours, and sleeping intermittently, most of the trip down the coast went by in a blur. We changed sails about once a shift, and checked fuel, made hot tea and updated the logbook, but there was also plenty of time to relax and enjoy the view. During the day we saw sunfish, porpoises, sea lions and the occasional other boat. At night, except for the first night when the fog rolled in so thick during my shift that every single star disappeared, we saw the stars and could watch the bioluminescence in the boat wake.
It was nice to see the light of another boat on my shift so that I could feel important by keeping a watchful eye that we weren’t getting too close. Even watching the same light drift by on the horizon over the course of an entire shift was a lot more entertaining than seeing no one and having nothing at all to report at shift change. I told Jed this as I went to bed after an evening shift and when I woke up to relieve him in the middle of the night, he left me at the helm in the middle of 17 fishing vessels off Tillamook Rock. They surely all had gear in the water, but their deck lights were so bright you’d lose your night vision looking at them. I pondered our little vessel with its navigation lights so low that they were often covered by the swell, and which so paled in comparison to the wattage put out by any of the boats in this fishing fleet. By the end of my shift having to thread my way through that maze having to guess and gamble at which direction each boat was drifting and which were closer to me and hoping that the fog would not come back I had come to appreciate those quiet peaceful shifts with only ocean in every direction but up. I think that was my shortest four hour shift of the trip.
On my next shift I sat out sipping tea and enjoying the sunrise. And then I heard the thump. Thumps, along with thuds, booms, splats and crunches, are all sounds sailors know well, and have more meaning in the slight intonations and pitches than would many sentences run together. There are many steps in interpreting a thump such as this. The first thing to ask yourself is, do you know what caused it? Did you see a log or buoy or another boat dead ahead in the water seconds before? If you don’t, the next thing to ask yourself is where it came from. Some clues to help determine this are to listen for pinging or ringing that might mean something hit the mast or rigging, or multiple thuds may indicate it was items inside falling. If it is associated with shudders or a sudden cessation of forward velocity, it’s probably hit the hull or the keel, and if there’s a crunching or crackling noise, you might be in big trouble…just to name a few options. It’s good to know the difference because some require immediate attention when you’re on deck, and some (such as multiple thuds of improperly stowed items falling around inside, like, for instance, our zucchini bread), are best dealt with through inattention and by finding some other pressing need on deck in order that the crew below feels inclined to tend to the alarm. Some sounds, on the other hand, such as those with a fleshy intonation to them (a forehead locating the top of the companionway, a shin on the traveler or a funny bone on the convex point of a wench), are music to the ears of the off-shift crew. These serve a dual purpose to the off-shift sailor: first, the reassuring knowledge that the topside crew is still onboard and second, that the topside crew is at least now awake on shift.
My thump was definitely from below, and caught both of our attention. I ran to the stern expecting to see a deadhead that I might have missed our approach of, but instead saw a large and probably very disappointed tuna. We think it saw our shiny delicious looking propeller and decided to make a snack out of it when our rudder snuck up behind him. Poor guy.
Saturday afternoon, one week after throwing off the dock lines in Lake Union, we were flying downwind at almost six knots preparing for our sunset rendezvous with the Coast Guard. All morning, as the wind was freshening and the west swells were finally starting to come up to something that more resembled the ocean than a summer lake, we were getting regular reports from Coast Guard stations all up and down the Oregon Coast of the shallow bars at the entrances to the protected harbors being closed to small craft because of high swell and ebb-induced steep breaks. Off Newport, the bar was closed to recreational vessels under 30 feet, so at 29 feet we would be allowed in with an escort. In order to get into port with as much daylight left as possible, we started the motor early. As soon as I started up the engine, I noticed a horrible grating noise, and before I could even tell Jed to cut the engine I started to smell burning. We cut the engine and Jed gave it a thorough looking over before we determined that it was just low on oil and got it back in working order.
As we approached Newport and started picking up local reports on channel 16, the bar restriction had been raised to vessels under 40 feet. Jed and I exchanged sideways glances as the winds had dropped enough to require us to run the motor to maintain our speed and the swell had evened out at 4-6 feet. We also knew that the current was approaching slack at sunset, so we called in for an updated bar report. The Yaquina Bay station, being a training facility, was more than happy to meet us at the jetty and escort us in even though the conditions had dropped since they had to be out to put together a new report anyway. So, we puttered into our new port greeted by the local Coast Guard and a beautiful sunset.
Our arrival at Quagmire’s new home was uncannily true to form. Going to sea with everything and the kitchen sink, we somehow manage to forget one crucial piece of paperwork almost every time. When we set out to circumnavigate Vancouver Island, it was the papers needed to cross the border that we left, organized and tidy, sitting out on the kitchen counter. We literally went in circles, rounding San Juan Island one and a half times while we waited for it all to get airmailed to Friday Harbor. We tend to have our fair share of luck in consequence; while our documents were being flown around somewhere overhead we drifted becalmed in Haro Straight at sunset as a large pod of Orcas passed around us.
This trip, the papers that stayed behind were the keys and maps of the new marina, including directions to our new slip. To make do, I dropped Jed off at the end of the dock, and motored slowly along to row of occupied slips while he ran ahead to identify from memory an empty slot that looked familiar. In a twist that mirrored our return from Canada two years prior, the slip we settled on and tied up in had been a wrong guess, but a forced compromise since hard as we try to reserve a berth to come home to, interlopers tend to fill these empty spaces relatively quickly. It seems to take a day and a lot of shuffling to end up where we’re supposed to be and fully settle back into dock life. However, we were welcomed graciously by our new neighbor who offered a hand with our dock lines and some freshly cooked crab he had caught that evening.
Adjusting from a top speed of six knots to driving is quite a horrifying transition. Even as we rolled cautiously out of the parking lot for home, we both tensed up as bushes, buildings and flashes of light flew by at dizzying speeds. When we hit the freeway, I was frozen in fear in the passenger seat praying that Jed was coping better than I was. This happens after every long trip; the transition to home seems more difficult and less natural than slipping into our habits at sea. We huddled together on the couch in the corner of our living room gazing out at our cavernous 700 square foot house not knowing what to do with ourselves in all that space.