The approach to Seattle
18 July 2011 | Oak Harbor Marina
This blog is written after-the-fact and will cover the last week or so of our passage from Maui to Oak Harbor, WA. Hopefully those of you who are/were interested had the opportunity to read of our journey for the first half of the passage.
But when the comm went down in the way of our computer monitor blinking out, everyone -- including us -- was in the dark. We couldn't blog; we couldn't email; we couldn't get grib files. That meant we were back to navigating the "old fashioned way. We earned it!" I felt like Magellan, Cabrillo, Cortez and the many others that went before me without anything except a chronograph, a sextant, and intuition.
Of course, we had the almighty GPS so it wasn't like we were totally lost! We could watch the GPS show -- in excruciatingly slow fashion -- the reduction in miles to our first waypoint, the Juan de Fuca buoy outside of the Straits. I have always maintained that the last 20% of an ocean passage takes 50% of the time. This passage was no different.
Without gribs we were stumbling our way across the pond in the best fashion we could -- taking the lifted tack whenever possible. We had turned right at 32 deg. N on a southwesterly breeze thinking that we were entering the trades. Instead I think we entered the Pacific High. (In hindsight, I wish we had gon further north, maybe to 40 N before turning right.) Consequently our passage was beset with light winds that required motoring and motorsailing.
The motoring started to cut into a dwindling fuel supply. With a little over 500 nm to go, Jim and I were quite conscious of an impending fuel shortage. Whenever the wind cut out we would turn the motor on, but only turn it over at 1200 rpm in order to conserve fuel. Normally we had the "3 knot rule" which meant anytime the knotmeter registered below 3 knots we were free to turn on the motor and motorsail. Well, with diminishing fuel supplies we adopted "the 1 knot rule" -- oftentimes drifting along at 1.5-2 knots -- to conserve the fuel.
I'm not exactly sure where but I think it must have been with about 800 nm to go we hooked our first bluefin (ahi) tuna. It was about 30# and after we cleaned it and iced it down I was wondering how we were going to eat so much fish. As it turned out, no problem!! Even though we were eating tuna every day, we never tired of it. I was pan frying it with a bit of oil, the fish, a squeeze of lime and a shake of salt and pepper. 1-3 min. on each side and voila! We were eating like kings!
About that same time we had an easterly fill in. An easterly? That was the last wind I expected to see! But it was a good breeze and we booked north on starboard tack and made some great miles, even as it swung to the SE and then the S. At this point I figured the wind was either going to continue to veer to the SW and then the W, or it would just quit and refill.
Sure enough, after about a day of sailing on the easterly/SErly the wind died, we motored (slowly) for a few hours, and then a Werly filled in that quickly went NW. Now we are beam reaching and the boat is flying! We are doing 7s, 8s, and even a few 9s and we started to log 160+ miles day -- not a bad days work for a short crew!
But all good things must pass and so it was after two days of closing on the mainland in rapid fashion that we sailed out of that breeze into nothing. From this point on the story gets a little boring because it involves a LOT of motoring!! We chugged along and finally came upon our first waypoint marking the entrance to the Straits of Juan de Fuca. We were on full alert to make sure we didn't foul the congested commercial traffic lanes.
By now the fuel gauge is reading "E" and we have precious hours left before we have to shut the whole engine down. As we passed Clallum Bay I motored within shouting distance of a fisherman and asked him if there was diesel in Clallum Bay. When he nodded affirmative, a big smile started to creep across my face from ear to ear. It was at that moment I knew we had made it.
8,000 nm in 9 weeks, and we did it. The boat is/was a little worse for wear, but nothing out of the ordinary. I'll give a full report next blog.
From Clallum Bay we motored down the windless Straits to Port Angeles, where we killed a little time downloading email and getting some email out to family and friends teling them we were OK. Our trip to Oak Harbor required a passage through Deception Pass. That passage requires timing with the currents and we still had 6 hours to kill before we could go in with the flood.
That evening -- as we waited for the next day's morning flood -- was one of the toughest. We nearly hit Discovery Island off of Victoria in the middle of the night! Dense fog combined with torrid currents and little or not wind made for some difficult (and impossible) sailing. It was also quite frustrating given the fact that both of us were dog tired.
But we pushed on through and arrived safely in Oak Harbor Marina Thursday last at approximately 1330, 19 days after we started. I was off on my original estimate out of Hawaii by 3 hours!!! I have never, ever gotten the right date when we are playing "ETA roulette". But this time I hit it spot on! Wheeee! Jim owes me a beer!!! :-)