Seattle to Ucluelet June 4-June 8
10 June 2012 | Ucluelet, B.C.
Photo: A canoe paddling the waters of Port Angeles harbor.
June 4, Seattle to Port Angeles, Washington.
There's a rule in writing adventure stories: never start with the alarm clock going off. The rule probably applies to blogs as well but then we're breaking a rule of sailing by going counterclockwise around Vancouver Island so I might as well break a writing rule too.
Wind was whistling around the rigging when the alarm on board the Osprey woke us at 3:00 am. We'd finished loading and putting everything away at midnight so getting up at 3:00 to catch the ebb tide out Puget Sound seemed crazy to me. Especially when we still had to take on water and Steve had forgotten his good boat shoes. With the car safely on the battery charger at the house getting the shoes meant a half hour walk in the dark.
We might have just turned off the alarm and slept for another couple of hours if our friend Lee Youngblood hadn't shown up to help us cast off. When he told us he planned to see us off, I had assumed he was joking. But there he was, camera in hand. While I connected the hose and filled tanks, Lee drove Steve home to get his shoes. If a friend gets out of bed to see you off at a ridiculously early hour, you can hardly change your mind and go back to sleep. We cast off at 0350. "Oh no!" said Lee. "My camera won't focus." It was too dark.
Out in Puget Sound, the north wind felt bitterly cold, but the seas weren't too bad. "Let's just motor," Steve said. "We have to get out of here." We rounded Point Wilson at 0850 in the morning and the wind died away to nothing. But with the ebb tide with us, we were going at 9.2 knots! We tied up at Port Angeles at 1350: 10 hours underway. The first thing we did -- take naps!
June 4. Port Angeles harbor.
From the Boat Haven, we walked into town, past the huge metal buildings of the Westport Shipyard where megayachts are built, past the plywood mill where debarked logs filled the air with the odor of cedar and along a new waterfront trail dotted with art work. The wind was calm, giving a sense of expectancy. Out in the harbor, freighters and tugs rode at anchor. A native canoe paddled by. A group of teenagers with rings in the their noses and hair dyed strange colors gathered in a parking lot. They ignored us and that was just fine. We walked through a downtown of old brick buildings decorated with colorful murals and stopped briefly at a bookstore. With 10 minutes before closing we found time to pick out four books for summer reading.
In my lifetime I've driven to Port Angeles more times than I've come by boat. But there's something about coming by boat that makes me appreciate it more. Perhaps it's the long walk from the marina to the town that forces me to look closer, or maybe it's the effort to get here. Either way, it's a different perspective.
June 7, 2012. Neah Bay.
We sat at anchor here a whole morning , Osprey bouncing on easterly swells coming in from the Juan de Fuca Strait. Now I know why they built that substantial breakwater around the marina. Torrential downpours whitened the water. We despaired of getting ashore to see the Makah Museum. Putting the outboard on the dinghy as the boat bounced up and down just seemed too much. Then someone threw the switch; the sun came out, the wind died and the rain stopped. We got our museum trip. In the evening canoes raced by our boat and a rainbow bridged the bay.
June 8, 2012. Neah B ay to Ucluelet (Barkely Sound, B.C.)
The weather has settled into a pattern of contraries: gale-force westerlies alternating with gale-force southeasterlies, each separated by a day of calm. We've been sailing on the days of calm, partly because it's not fun to go out in the Strait, or the ocean, in gales, but also because the gales have conveniently come when we had other things to do: a ferry trip to Victoria, a visit to the Makah Museum and now in Ucluelet, a day buying all that produce and wine the Canadian custom regulations prohibit us from bringing on our boat.
Calms don't necessarily mean easy. The crossing from Neah Bay to Barkley Sound wasn't fun. Southwesterly swells came at our beam while light southeasterlies blew exhaust into the cockpit. The boat rolled and pitched and jerked. "Shall we go outside or keep in the ocean?" asked Steve when we reached Cape Beale. Amazing that he thought he had to ask. Who cared if the trip through the sound added an hour to our tip. I just wanted out of there.
To get to Ucluelet from Seattle, we traveled 175 miles at an average speed of 6.5 knots. Despite timing the tides, there were still hours when the tide was against us, or slack. There's nothing like a slow boat trip to make you feel like you've gone a long distance. Perhaps we could have flown here in a couple of hours in a seaplane, but we wouldn't fully appreciate the distance.