26 May 2010 | Newport, OR
As I said goodbye to Ruth Ann, the love of my life, and entered the airplane in Grand Rapids, Michigan, early in the morning, I anticipated getting off a shuttle bus later that same day in Port Townsend, Washington, stepping onto the deck of my daughter's and my son-in-law's boat, the Jenny P, and setting sail for Hawaii. But that kind of start happens only in books about this kind of adventure. In reality people with good sense take it to heart when their weather router suggests that today is not a good day to meet the sea. Better wait for Sunday. So we did.
Our weather router, who resides in Hawaii, is in daily contact with Eric and Christine. He knows exactly where the Jenny P is, in port or at sea, at any moment, through a very sophisticated set of technological devices that also allow him to see what weather is ahead of us at any time and to make suggestions about alternatives to sailing through storms when alternatives are available. What a great and comforting service!
We had a very nice send-off the night before we left Port Townsend as Alan and Sandy stopped by with a bottle of very good wine and their best wishes. They took a couple of pictures to email to back to Bob and Alice, and through them to Ruth Ann. At six-thirty in the morning we left the dock and headed for Port Angeles, west along the mountain-rimmed coast of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Eric expected us to have to fight the flood for some part of the trip, but, as he predicted, most of our hours at sea were spent with the benefit of the ebb. We had only a one-day window to go west, according to the weather router, and we were not about to waste even that. We made Port Angeles without much difficulty, but were locked in there by a series of low pressure systems for another three days.
We crew made the best of it with excursions to a playground, an evening out with dinner and a movie (We thoroughly enjoyed the new documentary, Oceans) and a full day in Victoria on Vancouver Island where we visited the local castle and a maritime museum, traveling there and back by ferry.
Finally, our weather guru suggested we had a 72 hour window during which we could actually exit the Strait and sail down the coast of Washington and Oregon, perhaps as far as Newport, Oregon, before another set of low pressure systems were sure to come through. We left at high tide.
As we rounded the waypoint just outside the Strait of Juan de Fuca and headed south along the Washington coast, we adults on board broke out a bottle of Champaign, toasted Poseidon as well as each other, and headed south. We have decided on a two-hour watch schedule after having experimented with four-hour watches the first night. The four-hour watch proved too challenging in the cold. For the following 60 hours, the winds varied between twelve and twenty knots, gusting from time to time to twenty-eight The air temperature reached the mid- 50's during the daylight hours but got down to the low 40's after sunset. The rollers were generally at eight feet and above, off our starboard quarter, making life below difficult to say the least, but the children coped...not without some rancor, but they coped. A freshly baked apple cake in the early morning not only takes the bite out of the cold, but makes life below decks a lot more comfortable as well.
At the top of a swell I looked off to port across the gray valley that just passed beneath us and wondered about the life teeming below us, remembering the images from the movie, Oceans, and marveling at my good fortune to have been invited aboard by my daughter Christine and my son-in-law Eric. I have day-dreamed of just such an experience as this for decades. I am a very lucky man.
On an early morning two-hour watch the second day out, I heard a whales' blow off our starboard quarter, turned to look at the twelve foot spray, and just as that dissipated, the whale's enormous head came rising out of the gray swell to take a breath... all of which nearly took mine away.
We pulled into Newport, Oregon, straightened things out below, got a twelve hour sleep in and now are waiting out the two or three-day rainstorm our weather-router predicted. Life is very good. Anticipation is delicious.