Day 18 – The last night and final thoughts
07/31/2009, Port Townsend
I passed by Cape Flattery at 9:00pm and was trying to decide whether I should stop and rest or just keep going. I felt good and excited about making it to land and decided to just keep going. I figured I would not sleep that well in Neah Bay anyway. The sun was setting as I headed down the Strait and I was ready for a fairly relaxing all night motoring adventure. Adventure is what it turned out to be.
As soon as the sun set the wind filled in. Forecast was for light to no winds but by 10:00 is was blowing 25 knots and the fog had rolled in for the night. Of course as soon as I got the sails up the wind went back to nothing but the fog stayed. It is such a busy body of water that all commercial traffic is controlled and they stay in their designated channels which is nice. I was able to stay off to the side out of the commercial traffic. There were quite a few boats out that night that were showing on the radar all heading in our out of the Strait.
My only real issue was how cold it was. Earlier that day Seattle set a record for the hottest day recorded but I think I had the coldest night of my life. Between the fog and dampness and water it was a cold that went right through you. I was wearing two pairs of socks, long underwear, pants, sweatshirt, jacket and wool hat and I was still cold. I would come down inside the boat and turn the stove on just to get warm.
When the morning light came I was just off of Port Angeles going very slow in the tide rips. Tide that morning was flowing at about 4 knots and I motor at 6 knots which meant I was making about 2 knots forward. It was still really foggy and strange blips started showing up on the radar. Looking out into the fog I could not make out what was coming at me and all of a sudden I was surrounded by a pod of Orca whales all jumping out of the water playing in the tide rips. They were quite impressive and were a nice welcoming to the Northwest.
The rest of the morning was uneventful and I motor-sailed into Port Townsend at 11:30. I had a surprise greeting by friends from Port Townsend and Seattle which was very nice.
Since arriving I have had time to relax, clean and sleep. All is good.
Thanks for joining along for the adventure and I will leave you with some random thoughts that I had about doing the trip solo.
Thoughts on sailing solo . . .
I have been wanting to do a solo passage for a long time and when I decided that this was the year to bring SCOOTS back to Seattle I also made up my mind that I would bring her back alone. These are some random thoughts that I had about the trip and sailing solo that I thought I would share.
So why do this alone? It is certainly more dangerous and if something goes wrong the opportunity for assistance is few and far between. Many would say that it is an irresponsible and selfish act. For me it was a goal and journey that I have been working toward for many years and I was prepared to accept the risks. It is important to know that this was not a box I was trying to check so that I can say, did that. For me it was a journey of sailing, the challenge of being alone, test of personal skills and strength and the thrill of achievement. This was my chance to do what I love and to experience the adventure as me in my purest form. Not diluted by any outside influences.
There are not many opportunities in life where you get to spend three weeks with no one but yourself. I think some might find this quite scary but I really enjoyed it. It gave me time to reflect and think about many things that are going in my life as well as the greater world. I can't say that I was ever lonely. I missed my kids and friends and family but in a healthy way. There were certainly moments when I wished that someone else could have seen or experienced what I was.
I think when sailing alone you make a choice of how much risk are you willing to take for the rest you need. You don't know when that next ship is going to come over the horizon and if you want to be 100% safe then you will check every 20 minutes 24 hours a day. That was not going to work for me so I sought a balance that allowed me to get the rest I needed but still be reasonably safe. I felt that the risk of doing something stupid because I had not slept for more than 20 minutes at a time was greater than being run down by a ship. Three times a day I would sleep for 90 minutes and I would combine that with a few 30 minute naps. In all I was getting 5+ hours of sleep which is plenty for me.
More than on any other passage, I really enjoyed sailing the boat. I spent far more time tweaking and tuning and making sure everything was just right and when the boat responded it felt like we were a team. What I really found interesting was that I sailed bolder and more confident than when I have crew.
Now that it is over I can honestly say it was my best passage ever. The weather was kind to me, the boat worked flawlessly and I did not make any serious mistakes. This will not be my last solo passage but it is one that I will always remember and will always have a special sense of achievement.
Day 18 - Arrival in Port Townsend
After what turned to be the longest and most tiring night of the trip I pulled into Point Hudson Marina in Port Townsend Washington at 11:30am.
I have lots more to say about the last night and arrival but as normal the arrival activities seem to get in the way of finishing the blog. For now you can know that I have arrived safe and sound and I promise to get more up on the blog in the morning.
Day 17 - I see it now
At 9:00pm I motored past Cape Flattery and I am now motoring down the Strait of Juan De Fuca.
Day 17 - I can't see it but it is supposed to be there.
07/29/2009, Pacific Ocean
Position: 48 17.3867'N: 125 32.7463'W Distance covered in the last 24 hours: 167 miles Distance to Cape Flattery - 32 Conditions: 10 knots of wind out of the W with fog.
After 17 days of sailing I seem to have found land. Well at least the chart and GPS say that I have found land. It is supposedly right in front of me but I am still in the fog. The cold fog. Hopefully soon the fog will clear, the heat wave will materialize and I will see the Olympic Mountains, Cape Flattery and Tatoosh Island.
The first sign that I was nearing land came in the form of a fly. Yes, an ordinary house fly. I figure he was trying to escape the supposed heat wave in Seattle and had flown out to sea. He must have gotten lost in the fog and just as his wings were starting to ice up he found SCOOTS. Little did he know that on SCOOTS was the most psychotic bug person he could find. Remember the story from Day 1. This fly couldn't just land get some rest, thaw out and move on. He had to buzz my face, not once but twice. I spent the next twenty minutes chasing him around the boat with my electric fly swatter until finally I got him cornered and won the battle. I am hoping that this was an isolated incident and his relatives are not out searching for him.
There was lots of activity on the VHF radio this morning. The Canadians had a plane in the air checking on all of the boats coming and going. There was a number of cargo ships leaving and entering. I am approaching from outside the main traffic flow but I felt very small out here in the fog listening to all of the shipping traffic. It has been a very quiet afternoon and hopefully it will stay that way until I get in past the entrance and can get out of the shipping channels.
I have decided not to stop in Neah Bay and will continue on to Port Townsend. I should arrive there around noon tomorrow.
In case you were interested last night I passed the Hallberg Rassy 31 that left Kauai a week before I did. I did not get a chance to talk with them but hopefully I will see them in Port Townsend to hear how their trip was.
I am fishing for Salmon today but I didn't really have any salmon fishing gear on board so the chances of catching something are pretty small. Even the birds are not interested in what I am dragging.
Most of the day has been spent looking out for ship traffic and keeping the boat moving. Wind is down to 10 knots and I am determined to sail as far in as possible. It just does not seem right to sail all this way only to motor the last twenty miles.
I should have a full update tomorrow and hopefully by then I will be sitting at the dock with a cold beer in a heat wave.
Day 16 - Lot's of wind and waves and is that . . . blue sky?
07/28/2009, Pacific Ocean
Position: 48 12.2001'N: 129 43.0992'W Distance covered in the last 24 hours: 165 miles Distance to Cape Flattery - 199 Conditions: 22-28 knots of wind out of the NW with occasional fog and blue sky.
I am really hoping that in the next few hours it is going to warm up enough and calm down enough for me to take a shower. Those of you who know me know that I can get cranky if I don't get my shower and yesterday conditions were so bad I could not even take a shower inside. Today is looking more hopeful as the sun is out which is helping to warm things up a bit.
As I mentioned yesterday as soon as I came out of the high the wind started building pretty quickly. It peaked out last night around 2:00am at 34 knots. It stayed in the 30's most of the evening and it now seems to be settling down to 25 knots. It should stay this way until tomorrow morning and by tomorrow afternoon the prediction is that I will be motoring again. Seems to be all or nothing.
Tonight will be my last night on the open ocean and I am hoping that the fog stays away so that I can see the stars for one last night. I have not seen them in over a week because of cloud and fog cover.
I have been hearing two boats on the VHF now for some time but I can't pick them up on radar and they are speaking a foreign language that I cannot understand so I can't figure out what they are doing. I suspect they are a couple of commercial fisherman out here but seems like I would not be in VHF range for so long. I also saw a couple of large ships headed toward Astoria. There is a lot more traffic now but I feel a little safer that being so close to the coast as they are keeping a closer look out as well.
I was hoping to fish for salmon as I approached the coast but it is still too rough. Maybe tomorrow when the weather calms down I will get a chance. That would round out the fish supply in the freezer with Mahi Mahi, Tuna and Salmon.
I should pass Cape Flattery late tomorrow afternoon. Depending upon how tired I am I will either stop and anchor for the night there and continue down the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the morning or if I am feeling awake enough I will just keep going. It is roughly 90 miles from Cape Flattery to Port Townsend which is my official stopping point for the trip.
It is interesting the pieces of the passage that really stick in your mind. You end up with a slide show in your mind of very specific moments that were memorable. I have to say that the vast majority of the time was spent living in the moment and was very peaceful but I have no real memory of it other than it was nice. The thing I can remember like it was yesterday was the day I left, saying good bye to friends, taking a last swim and then pulling up the anchor.
Day 15 - Wet and wild, the sequel
07/27/2009, Pacific Ocean
Position: 47 35.8892'N: 133 42.6561'W Distance covered in the last 24 hours: 167 miles Distance to Cape Flattery - 361 Conditions: 22 knots of wind out of the NW with fog and blue skies above.
As I said yesterday, it is amazing how conditions can change so quickly. Around 2:00am we made it to the other side of the high pressure system and started to get some wind again. The forecast showed winds gradually increasing from 8 knots up to about 13 knots today. I was prepared for a relaxing day of sailing in nice wind but not too intense. The good news is that the winds did wait until daylight to really pickup. At the moment I am sailing with a double reef in the mainsail and the staysail and the boat is going a steady 8 knots. The winds are still building and are now around 22 gusting to 25. I suspect they will get up in the 30's by tomorrow morning. There is not much swell; mainly just wind waves that are steep and very close together. Since the wind and waves were right on the beam I have headed slightly more to the north to put the waves just a little forward of the beam to improve the motion of the boat.
I saw my first ship since leaving Hawaii on the radar this morning. It was too foggy to actually see the ship but the AIS identified it as a 600 foot cargo vessel heading to Vancouver. I have said it before but I love this AIS system and the information it provides. I can see exactly where the boat is, what heading it is on and how fast it is going. I suspect that I will be seeing a lot more traffic as I get closer so I will need to be extra vigilant about checking the radar.
I hear that there is a heat wave going on in Seattle at the moment. For those of you that need relief from the heat I have a sure fire cure. Get in a sailboat and go about 300 miles offshore. Don't forget your long underwear and foul weather gear as it is cold and wet out here. Hopefully it will still be hot when I arrive.
There are just a few days left on this trip and it feels like it has gone really fast. I always get this feeling of disappointment at this stage of a passage wishing it could last just a few days longer. Although given the conditions I have at the moment it could end tomorrow and I would be relieved. I should have a nice sail down the Strait of Juan de Fuca which will be a nice conclusion to the trip.
Have a great day and I will be back tomorrow with more updates.