July 28, 2021
going south through the Hood Canal Floating Bridge.
We arrived at the Bridge half an hour early for our requested 1100 hrs opening. When a massive concrete floating bridge was opening just for us, we wanted to be on time.
No simple drawbridge, the Hood Canal Floating Bridge comprises fixed spans (i.e. floating but unmovable) on either end and movable floating spans in between. We had to wait for one of the fixed spans to rise up, making space for one of the movable spans to go underneath it before we could enter the channel.
By 1045, a long line of cars was already waiting for us to get through. At precisely 1100 hrs, the bridge horn blew and the fixed span rose up as the movable span glided east underneath it. When there was enough open water to pass through, Steve shifted to forward and Osprey moved ahead through the opening. I breathed a sigh of relief. Then I looked back. The closed bridge looked so solid, that for an instant I felt trapped. But I shrugged the feeling off; we could always get out by requesting another opening.
With the sun glinting off ripples on the water, Osprey headed south, picking up speed.
Steve and I were taking two weeks to explore the Hood Canal. With the pandemic keeping us out of Canada and Alaska we were looking for someplace new, and hopefully uncrowded, for our next sailing adventure. The Hood Canal promised views of mountains and blue water, sparsely populated shores, a very few marinas, and the nuisance to sailboats of having to open a major bridge to get there.
On the cockpit seat, Chart 18441 (Puget Sound Northern Part) showed large swaths of the north Canal outlined in purple and labeled "Naval Operating Areas." "Operating areas" meant torpedo testing. Steve scanned the water, looking for Navy patrol boats to warn us off. "Maybe they're not operating today," he said. We continued on, passing the Bangor Submarine Base with its bulky buildings and tall antennas. Steve, a former submariner, counted three submarines at the dock.
Photo: Bangor Naval Base
To starboard the long thin Tonandos Peninsula divided the Canal into two with Dabob Bay and Quilcene Bay, our destination, on the west. Farther south we could see the broad delta of the Dosewallips River and above it green hills topped with dark mountains, snowless in the summer drought.
Northern Hood Canal including Dabob and Quilcene Bay
We were motoring around the bottom of the peninsula when Steve muttered, "Something doesn't sound right." He slowed the engine, then shifted into neutral. The engine kept running slowly ahead. Steve shifted into reverse. The engine still ran slowly ahead. He swore. "We have only forward," he said. "No neutral or reverse. I hope I can fix it when we get to Quilcene."
Was this the danger I had anticipated as the bridge had closed behind us? Arranging for repairs in this underpopulated Canal wouldn't be easy. Just then the radio interrupted my imaginations with the call, "Osprey, Osprey
." Steve picked up the microphone. It was the Navy calling. They were doing "operations" (testing torpedos) and requested us to go farther north before turning west. We turned north. We weren't going to argue with torpedos.
Once inside Quilcene Bay, we could see a sparsely populated bay with a scattering of houses along the shore, a small marina behind a rock breakwater, and beyond the marina a few industrial buildings. It didn't look like the kind of place that would have yacht repair facilities.
The chart showed a likely anchorage off the marina with depths of from 3-4 fathoms. Our challenge would be to set the anchor without a reverse gear. Steve turned the engine off and we drifted ahead, propelled by momentum. When we were almost stopped, I dropped the anchor, letting enough chain out for a 3 to 1 scope, then setting the brake. The anchor grabbed and brought us to a stop. It had been easy!
By the time I put the anchor hook on the chain and walked aft, Steve had disappeared below. I heard the clatter of stairs being removed from above the engine, then a long silence followed by a string of swear words. Peering into the cabin, I saw Steve holding up a rusty fitting in his hand. "The connector between the gear shift and the cable is broken. I can't fix it and we don't have a spare."
My heart sank as I imagined waiting days for parts to be delivered or, worse, having to pay for a tow out the canal. Steve's thoughts were elsewhere. He was rummaging through the galley drawers. "Where are the rubber bands. I know we've got some."
Finally, Steve held up several blue rubber bands. With a glint in his eyed, he said. "What's that book that Wendy wrote? Around the world with Duct Tape and Bailing Wire
?" How about Around the Hood Canal with Rubber Bands?
" (He was referring to is Sea Trials: Around the World with Duct Tape and Bailing Wire
by Wendy Hinman.)
A half hour later I listened with relief as Steve shifted the engine from forward to neutral to reverse and back. Steve had managed a complicated repair with two rubber bands from a newspaper.
We had a functioning gear shift again. Tomorrow we would explore the Quilcene Marina then head south to Pleasant Harbor. I just hoped the rubber bands would hold.