09/07/2011, Canoe Cove, Vancouver Island
It's astonishing how one lifestyle can pass so seamlessly into another. How quickly the small luxuries of home are taken for granted, how easy it is to fall back into the familiar groove. I'm sitting here with my feet up after my first day back at work, the dogs are sprawled around me as they are accustomed to doing, I am looking at the same ornaments, wall hangings, pot plants and I really have to wonder if I ever went away. Then I start to read a cruising friend's blog and it all comes flooding back...
I think that there may be an unconscious reason why I left this blog hanging at the mouth of the Juan de Fuca strait. The following 12 hours were not much fun. I will rewind to Naomi's last blog, when we were entering Juan de Fuca Strait with one tenuously functioning engine and one that was going to need a haul out to repair. Fortunately a westerly wind was able to nudge us gently up the strait, but as we were swallowed by an enormous fog bank the winds lightened considerably and we had to reluctantly fire up the engine. We were still on the U.S side of the shipping lanes and with several in and out bound ships plying the straits, we had to head across at right angles towards the Canadian coast to get of the danger zone. This was essentially 'flying by instruments', a situation that filled me with stomach knotting unease given the uncertain health of our starboard engine. The big ships are legally required to have AIS, but what of the smaller boats perhaps not readily detectable on our radar? As our chart plotter showed Race Rocks half a mile off our port beam, the AIS indicated a cruise ship exiting Victoria harbour. We were outside of the shipping lanes and it was our fervent hope that the cruise ship remained in them. With the powerful thudding of it's engines heard clearly above the noise of ours, the cruise ship passed half a mile off our starboard beam...and yet the dense fog completely obliterated what must have been a ship blazing with light.
We entered Haro strait and gradually lights started to become visible on the shore. Our engine was sounding like it would cut at any moment so Tommy switched off and the next couple of hours we drifted in Haro Strait, while he worked on the engine and I watched for shipping. The engine situation went from bad to worse and would cut out after a few minutes of running. As a beautiful morning dawned in Haro Strait with not even a whisper of a breeze, we reluctantly decided to call our good friend Alan from Piers Island to give us a tow. Was this how our years voyage was going to end? Being towed to the dock? Phambili's pride (and ours) would not allow it. With a bit more tinkering, the engine started to purr and purr some more and so, by the time Alan and Kaia pulled up, we were a self propelled vessel again.
Fueled up, custom check-in over, we headed across to Canoe Cove to an unforgettable homecoming welcome at Doug's dock. A crowd of familiar faces stood behind an enormous hand painted banner on a dock that was sinking under the weight. Up the ramp in two chairs sat my less mobile parents just beaming. An emotional reunion with family (including my sister Julia who was flying back to South Africa three days later) and good friends ensued with much clinking of glasses charged with champagne and orange juice. We felt truly blessed.
And what now? We return to life in a community we love and will continue to live vicariously through the blogs of cruising friends we sadly left behind and one day when the beckoning whisper from yonder seas becomes a roar, we will perhaps set sail again.
08/28/2011, Entering Juan de Fuca straight - 48* 25 N 124*36 W
We are motor sailing along at 5 knots into the Juan de Fuca straight. Dad managed to get the starboard engine going, he thinks he might have fixed the problem but we're not 100 percent sure On our starboard side, we can see Neah bay; we've come in a full circle! It's so wierd to think that it's been a whole year since we were last here. Everything seems so familiar. Earlier on in the day I saw a big pile of kelp and it really made me think 'Oh! We really are here!' Also, the water has changed from clear and light blue to a thick matte redish dark grey colour.
This afternoon mom and I worked on my pig pyjama's. Half way through, when I just finished hemming one pant leg, Dad called to say that he needed me to go up the mast to get the end of a lazy jack that had come loose and got pulled up the mast yesterday. It was so scary up there because you feel the motion way more then on the ground. I was clinging to the mast for dear life. I felt like the little cloth chair thing wouldn't me if I let go. Eventually, I did have to let go with one hand to bring the lazy jack around the spreaders and attach it to me. Even then I was swinging around alot. If I had let go with both hands I would have been swinging back and forth like crazy. Once I was safely back on the ground it felt a lot less scary. Mom and I went back to pinning the next hem for my pyjama's. But then Neen came back inside to tell me that I actually hadn't go brought the rope around one tiny string and I had to go up the mast again. It was annoying that it was just one tiny string that had gotten in the way, but I really didn't mind very much because it's fun to go up the mast. Soon after, we finish my pyjama's. I think they turned out all right except they are a liitle bit wide.
In the morning at about ten o'clock mom made us a delicious egg and bacon breakfast to celebrate us being so close to land. After breakfast we actually saw land for the first time. I was looking out and I saw something that looked suspiciously like snow covered peeks. Since I wasn't sure that it wasn't just clouds I called everyone and asked them what they thought. They all agreed with me that it looked like land. I shouted Land Ho! Which is what I'm always excited to say :).
08/27/2011, 60 miles from Cape Flattery
Yesterday morning at around 2 am when I handed over to Tommy the port engine had started vibrating dramatically. When I woke up later, Annina greeted me to the gloomy news that the port engine was out of commission other than for emergency maneuvering and the starboard engine was going to require Tommy's attention once he woke up from what sounded like a very busy watch. The winds had been contrary all night and into the morning, making it difficult to set a heading for Cape Flattery. At last around noon the winds backed to the north west as they were predicted to do and since then we have been making excellent progress in the right direction. We now have one functioning engine as Tommy was able to change the fuel filters and it looks like that may have been the reason for it losing power. At the back of our minds there was always the very real possibility of having got something caught in the prop, but we couldn't see anything. With the great wind we are getting now we have no need of diesel and are moving along at between 7 and 8 knots.
All day United States securite's have been issuing forth from the VHF radio ( Cameron came rushing down to our cabin to inform me he had heard TOFINO coast guard in there as well), tonight I see the loom of several fishing boats on the horizon and permeating the salty air a definite smell of damp earth, clues that we are approaching a large body of land some time soon.
08/26/2011, 200 miles from Cape Flattery
Just a quick update as I've spent most of my watch fiddling with sails and the starboard engine and not had the usual quiet night watch more amenable to waffling away on the laptop. The winds are light and maintaining a good angle to Cape Flattery requires frequent adjusting of the sails and autopliot.
We're about 200 miles from the Cape but more south than we'd like so spent some time yesterday motorsailing north in very light NNE winds so as to have a better sailing angle once the NW winds fill in as expected in the next 24 hours.
But the engine gremlins had other ideas and the slight vibration that we'd noticed in the port engine the last day or so increased dramatically last night and on checking I noticed water in the saildrive oil....AGAIN!!! Two possible reasons I think. We may have picked up some fishing line in the prop or the shaft may be a little out of alignment. When I changed the seals in Papeete I wondered whether the shaft may not be quite straight but the main machine shop said they could only look at it in a week to 10 days. That meant a further delay in our departure to Hawaii and another 10 or more days in the boatyard at $60/day. Guess we'll be hauling out again at Canoe Cove, our fourth haulout in just over a year three of them saildrive related!!
Then the starboard engine started losing power. After a quick check in the wee hours it looks as though we may have water in the fuel. Will change filters this morning and hold thumbs that that is the problem. Sigh!!
While I was checking out the engine I noticed we were on a collision course with a vessel on AIS (the vessel identification system that all commercial boats have to carry these days). We can receive signals on AIS but don't transmit our position so I wasn't sure that they knew I was there. After several calls on the VHF radio they responded and it turned out they were a tug with a barge about 3/4 of a mile behind. We were already hard on the wind and bearing off wasn't going to help avoid a close encounter so the tug skipper kindly altered course to pass behind us. As we approach the busy waters of Juan de Fuca we're glad to have this little piece of equipment on board.
Well the sun's up and we have mainly blue skies. Just been up on deck ( the lazy jacks that control the mainsail when we take it down have come loose on the port side...another little job for today)...anyway just been up on deck and I don't know if it's just wishful thinking but I got my first whiff of land!!! A musty foresty kind of smell...Yahooo!!! We're getting close now.
..then again. Maybe it was my socks.
08/24/2011, 400 miles from Cape Flattery
Today finds us beating into 20 knot headwinds. Reefed down and partially furled we are heading more east than we'd like, but with the promise of a north west switch within 24 hours, we are hoping we can then follow our rhumb line to Cape Flattery; but then again, maybe not. Every day holds new surprises as far as the weather is concerned, despite our access to detailed weather information. A new decision to make on a daily or thrice daily basis. In what direction should we, can we, head? Should we gybe? should we tack? How about another reef in the mainsail? Perhaps we should motorsail, or simply motor and furl in the jib completely. Sometimes it's hard not to be as indecisive as the weather. Or perhaps the latter is not being indecisive, it is simply laying out it's repertoire. Look, I can be benign, with reassuringly calm seas, caressing breezes and heady blue skies or I can be wild and threatening, with towering cumulonimbus or sometimes I am monochromatic, slate sea merging into slate sky, the air thick with fine wetting rain.
The weather can be as capricious and labile as an adolescent or perhaps that is simply our reaction to it. It is unpredictable, all powerful and humbling and despite the wide spectrum of attributes it has put on display, it has thus far been kind to us. We must not incur the wrath of the weather gods.
Everyone is extremely well on Phambili, the mood consistently upbeat despite our stop start progress. Lots of calculating on arrival times, great interest shown in wind strength, boat speed and direction. I now have to wrest this computer we use for sailmail out of typing hands to write this blog and check the weather, as more and more emails fly back and forth between here and the cousins and friends at home. This temperamental little computer, previously the exclusive domain of Tommy and I, has become a hot item.
Four hundred miles to Cape Flattery. The countdown to landfall has begun.
08/23/2011, Five hundred fifty to Flattery
Early yesterday morning I was gently dragged out of dreamland by a familiar aromal. Slowly surfacing I noted the motion was smooth and the starboard engine was still purring along so we hadn't found any breeze since I had handed over to Fiona at 2am. It was now 7am so that meant Neen would be on watch. What was she cooking? It wasn't pancakes, not bacon and eggs, not brownies. Could it be......popcorn? Leaving my warm bunk to investigate I found her happily ensconced in front of her laptop watching a movie. Cam was snuggled up on one side of her reading one of the Potter books on the kindle and between them was a bowl containing a few lonely kernels of corn. The only thing worse than being woken up early by the smell of popcorn is finding that the bowl is empty. Neens offered to make some more but I decided on the more traditional fare of yoghurt and granola.
Fast forward 24 hours and we are back sailing again after spending about 15 hours motoring yesterday. It's cold, grey, wet and foggy outside but inside it's dry and warmish if a little damp. It would be nice to have the furnace to dry things out a little but if the light winds continue we may need the fuel in the furnace tank to get to Sidney and it may be a blessing in disguise.
Today's project is the port engine alternator which decided to quit working just before I turned in last night. I'm hoping for a loose connection but fortunately have a spare alternator if my sketchy electrical skills can't get this one working. Boredom is certainly not an issue on passage as there is always something to do, planned or unplanned. Yesterday's planned task was clearing out the drawers in the saloon, a task which was interrupted by the arrival of a good 2 meal sized albacore tuna on the end of our fishing line. Another sign that we have entered cooler waters as we've left the domain of the dorado behind. We're honing our fishing skills. Cam grabs the camera and Nina the gaff. With the loss of the net we simply pull the fish on board at which point the cockpit becomes deserted as the crew prefers not to witness the application of the mallet. Then follows a pleasant half hour or so preparing the fish and sampling sashimi before the stove is lit and the fish is fried before, as our good friend Juergen would say, it's family even knows it's missing.
5am now and time to send off some emails while radio propagation is good.
Then a cuppa tea and maybe a bowl of popcorn.