The Last Leg of our Two-Year Odyssey
22 June 2019 | Scappoose, Oregon
Barbara Johnston | An Oregon early summer day -- cloudy but not too cold.
As you read in our last post, we had put Sequoia aboard the MV Kraszewski in Golfito, Costa Rica, and we headed home to wait the several weeks before the ship would show up in Victoria, B.C. Every day or so we were receiving an email from SevenStar Yacht Transport - the company that had arranged for the voyage - to tell us what the anticipated arrival date would be in Victoria. The Stonecliffes' boat, Julia Max, was also aboard the Kraszewski, so we exchanged email regularly about what was the latest prediction. We were also able to follow the ship's progress using its AIS transmissions, as reflected on websites and apps such as vesselfinder.com. Still, there was so much uncertainty about the ship's arrival date and our anticipated trip north to receive Sequoia, that we just began to make clumps of appointments to take care of the routine doctor visits we'd been unable to make over the last year, with great hopes that the arrival would somehow fit in.
The first predicted date of arrival was June 6th in Victoria. We arranged with our friend, Mark Downing, to join us for the unloading. It was really a fairly simple plan: We would drive to Port Angeles on June 5, leave the car there, take the foot ferry to Victoria, stay overnight in a hotel, receive Sequoia the next day, re-rig, staying overnight on the boat in the Victoria harbor and then sail back to Port Angeles on the 7th where our car would be waiting. (It's a sail of just a few hours). Obligations at home prevented us from taking Sequoia all the way home at this point.
Glitch #1. There was no space at the dock in Victoria for the Kraszewski. (You'd think they would have figured this out farther in advance...) So the arrival port was changed to Nanaimo, about 80 miles north of Victoria on Vancouver Island, still saying they'd arrive on the 6th. So much for that dandy little plan we had worked out. Fortunately there was still time to cancel those hotel reservations in Victoria without charge. Now, we just had to work out how to get to Nanaimo and sail the boat back to somewhere in Washington State where we could leave her for a few days. Mark was still available, but I had a doctor's appointment I didn't want to postpone. So we worked out for Mark and Craig to take the float plane from Seattle to Nanaimo (Ka-ching!) the morning of the ship's arrival. They could receive Sequoia in the afternoon, re-rig her, stay the night on the boat in Nanaimo, and then sail to Bellingham. I would let them off at the Kenmore Air harbor in Seattle, drive to Bellingham, leave the car for them, and then take the train from Bellingham to Portland, in time to make my doctor's appointment. Yes, the plan is getting somewhat elaborate.
Glitch #2. Strong northwest winds off the California coast were going to cause a one-day delay in the ship's arrival. Nanaimo is still the arrival port. No seats were available on the Kenmore Air flight the next day.
Glitch #3. Mark's window of availability expired. I did find out that Kenmore Air would substitute me for Mark on the float plane, at no additional cost, so I cancelled my medical appointment. Craig and I would to drive to Seattle, stay overnight with our son, Ian, have him drive us to the Kenmore Air Harbor the next morning and take that float plane. We'd spend the day in Nanaimo, staying that night in a hotel, receiving Sequoia the next day, staying overnight on the boat in Nanaimo, sailing to Bellingham the next day, and then taking the train to Seattle. We'd pick up our car from Ian's house and drive home in time for our Monday morning appointments.
I was starting to get skeptical about whether this would work out at all, but amazingly it did. We figured we were down about $950, what with the float plane fare, the Nanaimo hotel and the train trip home from Bellingham. There are no guarantees in life.
The Kenmore Air flight from Seattle to Nanaimo was perfect, and we flew over so many places we've been to by boat - Edmonds, Port Townsend, Saltspring Island, Dodd Narrows and then into the float plane terminal just south of Nanaimo's Departure Bay.
Nanaimo is a truly lovely city, with beautiful gardens, historic buildings and lots of interesting public art. There are great restaurants and beautiful views out across the water. One block of the main street seems to have 3 or 4 bakeries. We noted one that stayed open all night and had all the necessary goodies for a bag lunch.
George and Sue Stonecliffe arrived by bus and we had a nice dinner with them that evening. We watched the vesselfinder.com app on our phones as the Kraszewski approached Victoria and then headed northeast between the San Juan Islands and Gulf Islands. I got up a couple of times during the night and saw - both on the AIS app and out the hotel window - when the Kraszewski arrived at about 2:30 am.
Receiving Sequoia from a freighter is something that we've done three times before, and yet every time is a bit different. We were allowed to go on board the freighter, and thence onto our boat to detach the backstay, which is necessary for the freighter's crane and slings to be able to lift the boat. In Nanaimo, in order to reach the freighter, we needed to walk all the way around Nanaimo's secured port area - a hike of about a mile through several construction zones on a fairly hot day. We took along a bag lunch from that all-night bakery and managed to accomplish several important tasks. Of course, we found the boat to be filthy, including some blobs and smears of black tar or grease which presumably came in on the crews' boots. (That same tar or grease could be found all over the freighter, including especially on the rickety boarding steps. Whatever you do, don't touch the "hand-rail"!)
As our appointed hour for the lift-off approached, we needed to climb off the boat, off the freighter, and make our way back through the mile plus of construction zones. We retrieved our duffel bags from the hotel lobby and then headed down to the town marina's fuel dock, where the crew tender would transport us back to the freighter by water.
When Sequoia reached Belgium two years ago, they had allowed us to board Sequoia when she was even with the freighter's deck and ride the rest of the way down. That's not permitted in Canada. So we watched her be lowered all the way down to the water, and then we were allowed to board. We handed the life jackets back to the pilot of the crew tender and scrambled onto Sequoia. Freighter crew scrambled down the side of the freighter, using a rope-and-board ladder, and climbed onto Sequoia (once more with those tar-covered boots!). They loosened and retrieved the lifting slings and climbed back up the ladder. We were away, under our own power.
We stopped at that fuel dock where the tender had picked us up and filled the tanks. (SevenStar had required that the tanks be nearly empty for the trip aboard the freighter). Luckily, we were able to obtain a space overnight at the Nanaimo Yacht Club, where George and Sue were waiting for us. We helped them with their rigging and sails; then they helped us. More hands make for faster work. Everything was set and we adjourned for a Thai dinner ashore, followed by a quick grocery shopping trip.
The next day we set sail for the 70 nm trip to Bellingham at about 5:15 am. (Yay for June in northern latitudes and the approaching summer solstice). The sun was just up as we left the dock. There wasn't much wind, so we didn't get to sail much, but we were anticipating a very long trip, including a stop at Point Roberts to clear customs into the United States. We finally reached Bellingham at about 4 pm, did the few necessary chores, found dinner, and fell into bed. The next morning, we hailed an Uber and got to the train station with plenty of time to spare.
Fast forward a week. Our son Ian was interested in helping us bring Sequoia back to our home port at St. Helens, Oregon, 86 miles up the Columbia River from its mouth at the Pacific Ocean. The timing of the trip was dictated by Ian's availability. We took the train and bus to Bellingham and then sailed to Port Angeles. Ian was able to catch a bus there from Seattle, and he arrived just a couple of hours after we did. We were also joined by a friend, Jim Mask, so we had good help and good company for the trip back to St. Helens. The next morning we sailed (actually motored) to Neah Bay, which is on the Makah Indian Reservation. The marina is full of successful fishermen -- both the commercial fishermen/native people and the large supply of tourists in their runabouts or on charter boats. The fish cleaning station was always in use and was enthusiastically monitored by local Bald Eagles and sea lions. It was quite an interesting show.
We left Neah Bay mid-morning the next day, timing our departure so that we'd arrive at the Columbia River Bar at slack tide, about 24 hours later. We rounded the northwest corner of Washington State and headed south. Currents and winds pushed us southward somewhat faster than we expected, so in the middle of the night we began to hold back, taking down the sails and running with the engine at a dead idle. It was a successful strategy and crossing the bar was uneventful. The flood tide pushed us a good way up the river and we saw favorable (to us) currents for about the first half of our river journey. We did make it to St. Helens - just before dark. Very happy to be there!
So, the big trip is over. We visited 35 countries (or distinct islands and territories) over the last 2 years, learned at least a few words in 10 different languages and saw some wonderful, strange, fascinating and mysterious things. Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, England, Guernsey, Sark, Jersey, France, Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, Morocco, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, St. Lucia, Martinique, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Antigua, St. Kitts and Nevis, Sint Maarten, St. Martin, Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Panama, Costa Rica and Canada. Whew!
The world is a wonderful and friendly place, and the reverence of the people for their own histories and cultures is impressive. People are curious about what's going on with American politics, and not a few expressed fears for the future of our planet. Many asked whether we had voted for Trump (we did not) and they were curious about how we saw the future of our country. (That's a subject for a very different conversation than this one!)
We're glad to be back home in Oregon, where the summer temperature range is quite reasonable and pleasant, the flowers are beautiful, the water is plentiful and the fruits are just starting to come in. We're looking forward to our music engagements during the coming year, and then maybe we'll think about setting sail again - although probably just in the Pacific Northwest.
If you have comments or questions about our trip, we'd love to hear from you.
Best wishes to all!
Craig & Barbara