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Victoria the 1st

March 27, 2010

Past Voyage – September 2007

Seattle to Victoria, BC

Seattle to Victoria, BC and back

Dates: September 20th – 27th 2007
Departed/Arrived: Seattle, Leschi, WA
Crew: Dad, Pam, Chris, Jenna, and I – in various combinations
Main Stops: Port Townsend, Port Angeles, Victoria BC
Point: First two-week sailing vacation in the Pacific Northwest inland waters.
Distance: +/- 250 nm
 
 
 
 

Northbound

Point Wilson

Point Wilson- At the narrow mouth of the entire Puget Sound, known for strong currents confused seas.

The first clip shows my Dad and I sailing close-hauled in the 12-15 knot westerly wind streaming down the Straight of Juan de Fuca on the Fall Equinox, 2007- Day 2 – en route to Port Angeles, 15nm west of Point Wilson.

We were beating into a sturdy late-Summer on-shore breeze, tacking west trying to make a line to Port Angeles. Shortly after that clip was taken, after coming about– as the sails were filling, catching the wind energy and pulling it through the rig to create forward motion- my Dad and I had a good scare. I looked up to see the Bruja’s stout, relatively new aluminum mast bending impossibly far to leeward. The upper shroud was loose and had come off the spreader on the previous tack. Here is a rendering of the scene burned into my mind:

Mast Bend

An approximation of how much the mast bent without the upper shroud.

We quickly doused the sails and gained control of the situation, but for the next couple of hours, motoring the rest of the way to Port Angeles, the world seemed like a threatening place. The relentlessness of the wind and the way it moved the waters all around the vessel reminded me of my newness to the endeavor of sailing.

Harnessing enough wild energy through a thousand parts and pieces to move 26,000lbs through a heaving mass of fluid must always be, on some level, a very serious business. I thought critically, painfully, and equally unrelentingly about the type of person necessary to make this endeavor safe, meaningful, and enjoyable. “Can I do this?” I asked myself. These times are the toughest for me. They call into question every aspect of my relationship to the vessel and to the discipline of sailing. They smart in a way which seems intolerable, but are ultimately strengthening.

The dynamic physics language of the sailing rig was the most foreign dialect spoken on the boat to me at that time. It’s like the rest of her spoke in a decipherable romance language: “Le Diesel est en dificulte”, “El Plumbing necesita la atencion” and the subtleties of her rigging came as Taiwanese whispers- quiet, but crucial. I resolved to listen better, and learn to some important verbs, like “tension”, and pronouns, like “me”.

That night in Port Angeles, Dad offered his unwavering support by helping me translate these cryptic messages, belaying me as I climbed 30ft up the mast to the spreaders with the boat hook and a rubber mallet, fixing and then tensioning the rigging. I began to recover my confidence. Repairs can be cathartic.  The next morning we motored across the Strait in a near flat calm, Dad at the helm, me, penitent on my hands and knees, scrubbing the whole teak deck and cockpit for most of the 3 hour trek. Maintenance can be atonement- I began humbly answering my doubt with a, “Yes, I can do this.”

During this crossing, I felt the long Pacific Ocean swell under and around the boat for the first time. The fast moving sinuous energy made for a beautiful waveform that sunny day- 4 or 5 boat-lengths from crest to crest, it lifted the boat gracefully and let her back down like friendly pats on the back.

Victoria

Arriving in Victoria, we cleared customs (our first time by boat) and secured a slip right downtown by the Empress Hotel.

Victoria Dad

Here we rendezvoused with family, Pam and Chris, and Chris’ girlfriend, Jenna, and took 4 days shore leave. The Bruja stayed in her slip alone while the five of us boarded a nearby hotel and explored the area.

West VictoriaThe west-end of Victoria, BC from our room

Buchart Garden Path12.5 miles NNW of Victoria the Butchart Gardens are blooming expansive

Besides a lovely day at Butchart, we had high-tea served at the Empress as if we were royalty- an odd and disconcerting thought for me, but culturing like one of our family’s dinners “at the nice table” growing up, and delicious like an indulgent colonial foraging of all the “good stuff” the royal world had to offer. At the Royal BC Museum, checking out the awesome First Peoples Gallery, I dreamed of sailing the thousands of miles of local shoreline researching the history and architecture of it’s wise indigenous peoples.

The highlight of the trip for me though, was an incredible close-encounter with a couple of gray whales on a sunny day-sail near Victoria. We happened upon the whales after all the whale-tour boats had departed. We were all alone with them, as close as 100 feet away, sailing slowly in complete silence, on an invisible breeze. It was a sweet, friendly, and intimate meeting of mammals and vessel.

Gray WhalesGray Whale Tail

Southbound

Chris, Jenna and I left early in the morning to cross the Straight and slip around Point Wilson to Port Townsend with the strong currents at our back. It was an effortless crossing- mostly sleep-able for my trusting crew. I did hoist the sails around halfway across the Straight- eight miles from any shore with low, random clouds obscuring any sign of land. Chris rose to the occasion -the heeling of the boat- and as we sailed through this watery, cloudy, foggy world, I explained to Chris what to do if I fell overboard. He listened intently, filtering the shock of imagining such a radical shift in his role. In the silence after the talk, broken only by the sound of the wind in our ears and the shushing of water off the bow, I thought to myself that a prudent captain would have gone over these details earlier in the crossing, or before we left. I felt new to my position, so did my brother- were in the same boat.

house on barge, boat and mill

Pulp mill near Port Townsend, house on it's way to a new home.

The winds were variable and the sailing didn’t last long. We motored the rest of the way- docking at Boathaven marina, clearing customs, and finding a cozy tavern in salty downtown Port Townsend before dark.

After eating, and before too much was drank, we compared how much the woody 2nd floor mariner’s watering hole was bobbing despite it’s concrete to earth connection. Six hours, countless stories, and at least as many pitchers of local brew later, we gurgled down the stairs and out into a driving rain- catching a cab back to Boathaven.

Naval sub on it's way home

Gigantore Submarine, large Coast Guard escort, and teeny Point Marrowstone

From Port Townsend to the Kinsgton Marina, we sailed for all of 30 blustery minutes before the wind settled into it’s typical Puget Sound state- tacit. During this time however we hit a blazing speed of 10 knots over ground with Chris at the helm for the first time. I’m guessing this was roughly 6.5 knots over water combined with a 3.5 knot current whipping around and along Point Marrowstone and into the Sound. The 6-hour putt-putt south offered a relaxing time to enjoy the last of the summer-ish sun, a sneak a peak into sub-aquatic US Naval life, and a chance to try out my own defenses: the frozen strawberry-flinging pirate-style slingshot Chris bought me.

Trying to catch an airborne M&M, Chris almost nabbed this seaplane.

In Kingston, Chris began to show flu-like symptoms as he and Jenna and I ordered food at a restaurant near the marina. By the time we got back to the boat, Chris having left early, he was in a full-blown feverish state. After a thickly blanketed and hot water-bottled night, we left the marina early in the morning.

It was a battle for the first 5 minutes against a rising breeze to get out of the constricted, dead-end-downwind marina. Under such conditions, leaving the marina cleanly -not causing damage- requires a well-choreographed dance of shoving off, tugging at docklines, prop-walking, and a distinct openness to improvisation as the wind changes the rhythm and key of your departure. The Kingston Marina, above all others, has taught me how little control I have over the vessel in tight quarters when it’s windy. It is there, in the prevailing southerly breeze that I have stepped on the most toes, and tripped over my feet the most- only ever doing harm to my ego.

Cutter-rigged sailboat in the North Puget Sound

Crossing the Sound to the Ballard Locks, Chris blanketed with a breaking fever, Jenna attending to him, the Dickinson diesel-burning stove warming the cabin, we motored, mashing into a strong headwind and choppy seas. About halfway through the 90 minute crossing, in a strong gust of wind, the stove blew out, leaving the hot, unburnt diesel to smolder and, without the updraft of the fire, spew the acrid smoke into the cabin, quickly filling it. Chris and Jenna evacuated up into the cockpit and into an entirely new season: Fall. It was below 50º, windy and raining. Chris and Jenna took as much shelter as they could while the smoke in the cabin, including all the warm air, vented out.

Making it back to Leschi, Chris and Jenna and I said our goodbyes, and, as I only had my bicycle at the time, they caught a cab to the nicest hotel in Seattle before flying back to California the following day. Simultaneous challenge and support- a key role of siblings. After they left, I plugged my thick, yellow, shore-power electrical-cord back into the marina and settled back into a hotel of my own.

—————————————-

–Please, if you have any suggestions, especially with the short film of the trip- like, “It made me nauseous, slow it down.” or something of the like, please feel free to comment. I’m new at this!

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9 comments

  1. Well, the short film didn’t make me sick and you know how car sick I get. I really enjoyed it. Love this story you are telling. And you are a good story teller The pictures are beautiful! I love the film of the whales. How exciting was that!!!! You are amazing, little one.

    Love you,
    Grandma


  2. Your story is inspiring and your blog is really well written. Looking forward to meeting you and your boat this weekend.
    -Stan (Lauren’s CLH)


    • Thanks for your words, Stan,
      I’m looking forward to meeting you too. I’m happy to say that the Bruja Dulce and I will be in good condition. We- the boat and I- narrowly escaped being annihilated last night by a 70,000+lb 4-boat floatilla that dragged at least 700 feet downwind in the strong winds. They dragged directly through the spot where I was anchored the night before.
      I moved yesterday because… well, it’s a long story…. I saw it coming.
      I wasn’t intending to write any new posts in the ship log for another month or two, but I may have to write about this close call.
      The floatilla I sent you and Lauren a photo of yesterday was in total disarray this morning.
      Crazy.
      See you!


      • I personally was inspired by the turtle cover. Love figuring out how things work (Lauren can tell you), but I am of the old school, Polish-guy-with-sticks-rocks-and-rope-will-make-it-work-or-curse-trying-and-then-give-up-and-drink-beer-while-complaining-about-how-things-are-the-fault-of-other-things camp. That’s some good childhood modeling at work there. I was quite impressed by the fact that you build custom tools for work. That’s like… monkeys with sticks to eat ants.

        I’ll bring the polish grain alcohol.

        If it wasn’t such a distance (or if we had a bigger boat that could handle more weather) we’d definitely be down their with our own boat to add to the floatilla.


  3. Hi Tim!

    I loved the film! It made me laugh and smile and want to know more and see more about sailing.
    Thanks for sharing!

    All the best,

    Katie


    • Wow. Thanks Katie. That felt good.
      Glad you want to know more.
      Seeing as you’re keen on the idea, and I’m in love with your sister, I’ll wager you will know more in time! Osmosis?
      Also, I’m thinking of ways to take more and much better video while sailing….wish me luck.
      Take care!


      • very well then.
        Take care! Safe travels!

        P.s. Mike and I have the exact same plate as shown in your video when you and your Dad are having breakfast. I think it came with our apartment or at least my friends that I moved in with. Luckily so, as we are now down to only that and one other dinner size plate.


      • Funny, mine came with the boat.
        Yours may be the last one though, Kate.
        One year ago, while the boat was “on the hard” in a boat yard. I was washing my dishes in the boat yard’s utility room. The room had a concrete floor aaaaand all my dishes fell and broke.
        Blam, just like that.
        Oddly though, a few days later in the same room, in the “free, take it” area, someone left 4 full-sized dark blue plates….took em.
        such is life
        Maybe I’ll reminisce over your single plate someday…


  4. Wow! That was like watching/reading a documentary. My heart was racing as you were telling about the mast problem and “voicing” your concerns about dangers and the unknown. It made me want you to return to dry land and never venture out again — I just want you to be safe and sound all the time (I am your mother’s sister, after all). But, in the end, you WERE safe and sound and happy/content and “smarter”. I guess I can continue to live vicariously thru you! Be careful — you are so loved!



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