Mel & Margie Storrier Iridium, a Bristol 47
Next morning we were up at first light to get to Friday Harbour, on San Juan Island, before dark. Unfortunately, we ended up motoring almost the entire way in calm waters, rain and fog arriving in the late afternoon. We tied up at the Port of Friday Harbour and cleared American customs, as well as obtaining our year-long cruising permit. There was enough time left in the day to do a quick walk around the town and enjoy a spicy Mexican dinner at a local eatery before calling an early night.
Sunday Racing in Friday Harbour
Next day we were up again early and motoring toward Port Townsend. We made sure we were with the tide and moved along quite smartly until we reached the end of San Juan Island and the entrance to the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Although the wind picked up slightly, it was the amazing waves that really caught our attention – big swells rolling in over shallow water from the west, tide rushing out between the islands and wind waves forming from the east. We held on and after an hour cleared this confused area. We were able to set all our sails and had a great run across the Straits in partly cloudy skies.
We had read that when you approach Port Townsend, the experienced sailor is wary of the rip tide around Point Wilson. We were watching the tides carefully and knew we would be in no danger. Nevertheless, as we approached the point and the lighthouse, the waters rose up as if a giant gold seeker was panning for gold. Ripples and whirls just magically appeared and started to toss Ka’sala around. We could see that this disturbance was in a very confined area of the water and that local craft seemed to be able to discern its boundary. We plugged through and tied up at the Point Hudson Marina late in the afternoon.
Point Hudson in the foreground
Ka'sala at Point Hudson
We knew we would be staying in Port Townsend for a while, for this is where we would be collecting our new mainsail and Yankee from Carol Hasse at Port Townsend Sails. The Point Hudson marina offers a discount to boats who are doing business with the sail loft and we wanted to take full advantage of it.
We had both been to PT several times in the past. We had passed through a few times on our motorcycles catching the ferry for Whitby Island and then Doug had stayed there for a few weeks a couple years ago to help Mel receive Iridium when it was shipped up from San Francisco to be commissioned before crossing into Canada. I had joined him that time on my motorcycle, a weekend adventure from work in Comox, that consisted of a very quick sprint down Vancouver Island, and an interesting ferry ride to Port Angeles, before continuing on. We both love this town with its broad streets, excellent brew pubs, marine shops and used bookstores. The town has been well kept up and its Victorian buildings are in great shape. This is a thriving town and its new marine trade school at Point Hudson, which trains many people in the various boat building arts, is a real feather in the town’s cap.
Ka'sala at Point Hudson, in front of the Northwest Marine Centre
We stayed at Point Townsend for four days while Doug took off the old mainsail and Yankee. We certainly had a strong feeling of nostalgia as we took those worn sails off – many lovely sailing miles for us and untold miles for Peter and Marlene. These sails had been through the Panama Canal after all!! We gave them to Port Townsend sails that have a whole recycle program going to make sure nothing is wasted, so we felt better when we found that out.
Off with the old sails!
When the sails were off, Doug went up the mast, and lubricated the sail tracks to get ready for the new sails. The new sails fit perfectly and went on with no problem, though their stiffness was amazing compared to the easily pliable old sails. On inspection, Carol Hasse decided we would be better off to have a reinforced area on the Yankee to give it extra strength if it rubbed against the spreaders. Our new mainsail is loose footed, meaning it is not attached to the boom along the bottom, but is fully batoned and has two reefing points. Our new Yankee has a more accommodating cut with a coloured cheater strip to save the edges from too much UV.
Prepping for the new sails , Port Townsend Sails loft in background
Doug with Carol Hasse
We were very pleased with the sails and the service Port Townsend Sails were able to give us. Hasse's sail loft is an extraordinaryly lovely place to work with high large windows, soft rock playing in the background, pictures and posters plastered around the walls, happy people gainfully employed. Everyone was friendly and accommodating answering all the questions we asked and obviously proud of the work they do.
Cutting and sewing sails
While at Point Hudson, Doug went up the mast again and installed the deck lights which had broken in a storm while Ka’sala was tied at the Comox Marina. At the navigation station he installed the AIS (Automated Information System) which would give us warning and details of ships in our vicinity.
On the fourth day we moved down to the Port of Townsend Boat Haven so we could fuel up, provision and prepare ourselves for our upcoming ocean passage. There is a big new Safeway through the boatyards about three blocks away and we were pretty excited about getting the groceries we wanted at a fair price. We filled a shopping card and shanghaied it back to the marina to off load our supplies. We got quite a few looks as we made our way across the boatyards – ah, this is what it feels to push a shopping cart around! The upside of it was we passed a local brewery and discovered that from 5 – 8 that evening there would be live music in their garden and specials on their beer. Too irresistible! Afterward we made our way down to the local smokehouse and bought ourselves a rack of slow cooked ribs….mmmmmm.
Next morning, another early rise and out onto the Straits of Juan de Fuca again. There was heavy fog, but we felt confident with our radar and new AIS system. The radar worked well, but we discovered the AIS antenna was not installed correctly and did not give us sufficient warning when the Port Townsend ferry passed nearby us. Knowing the AIS was not working in the heavy fog led Doug to make a decision to stay out of the shipping lanes. Unfortunately it meant that we were back into the Point Wilson caldron and this time it gave us a real going over with waves up to six feet roaring this way and that. Ka’sala, under power, stayed under control, but we certainly had a rough ride before exiting that very unsettled piece of water. However we did see hear quite a few ships blowing their foghorns that day. The fog stayed with us the rest of the day and we ended up motoring most of the way to Port Angeles where we spent the next uneventful night.
The following is taken from my journal on August 15: “We were up early this morning – socked in fog – but we needed to leave right away as the tide was in our favour. Around Port Townsend, the currents run 3 knots so we don’t want to go against them. That meant we gave our radar (and the new AIS system) a good work out. I steered, Doug watched the radar, then we traded off. We had very little wind and at some points the seas were quite rough so we got tossed around a couple of times, nothing the hearty Ka’sala couldn’t handle – or her hearty crew for that matter! (har har matey)
We got in to Port Angeles about 3pm. We’re alongside a dock, about ½ a mile from town and we may take a walk in after dinner. The fog is just a bit off shore and I expect there will be a lot of it tomorrow too. We want to get up very early (5 to leave for 6) and try to get to Neah Bay near Cape Flattery. It will be a long day, but we need to leave before the wind builds later in the day. No chance of sailing as the wind is expected to come directly on our bow. Not only that, because the wind comes directly from the ocean, the seas build too. We want to be tucked in before that happens! There are a couple places along the way we can nip in to if we have to. A lot of this worry will be gone when we are at sea as a lot of the sea state and wind problems are the result of the land. I also cannot get over how COLD the water is – 10 degrees! It doesn’t get that cold in Courtenay in the middle of the winter!!!
All is going exceptionally well and we are very pleased with Ka’sala and with ourselves. Each day is an adventure and brings a new challenge or two that we seem to be taking in our stride and overcoming. Each day we build more confidence. I think a lot of it is because of all that we learned on Caperata (mostly what NOT to do!). We’re older, more mature and less impetuous (well, maybe) and Ka’sala is a premier little ship. “ (Caperata was the name of the Brewer 44 centre cockpit we lived aboard and sailed for four years in Hong Kong)
On August 16 we made our way from Port Angeles to Neah Bay. We started in fog, but it quickly lifted and we sailed beautifully for the rest of the day with, surprisingly, eastern winds – not something that happens in that stretch of water very often – and arrived at the dock in Neah Bay early that evening.
From my journal August 17: We arrived at Neah Bay late yesterday afternoon from Port Angeles. We thought we might only get as far as Clallam Bay, but as luck would have it, the wind shifted directions and started blowing from the East. That meant it literally pushed us out the Straits. We sailed for most of it, but had to motor some too. It was the first time I had experienced rolling ocean swells and I found them most comfortable. The boat just coasts up and down them very gently. The highest they got was about 6 feet. It was the first time with our new sails – they went up cleanly and worked well. We even reefed the main (made it smaller) as the winds built up to about 25 knots, before calming down again.
This place would be paradise for Dad. We spent last night in the marina – it is absolutely chock full with fishermen – we were the only sailboat. I guess the sockeye salmon are running like crazy – 100 percent better than last year and everyone is happy. The smell of fish guts and seagull guana overpowered everything. I didn’t have enough nerve to ask if I could buy some fish and, ironically, there are no stores that sell it! Instead, we had to satisfy ourselves with some smoked salmon (ah, poor us!) that we picked up today – fresh out of the smoker – mmm.
We also went to the Makah nation cultural museum this morning. (It’s all reservation here.) These native people (who claim lineal connections to the Kwakuitils of Alert Bay), have lived here for a very long time. About 500 years ago there was a mudslide in one of their villages that preserved all kinds of artifacts from that pre-contact time. They have most of them displayed in the museum and it was most interesting to read their history and see these exhibits. They are known for hunting whales and we saw the canoes and weapons they used to do it. Unbelievable that 8 men would get in a tiny boat and go out on the ocean to spear a whale! But they did, and they caught many. They must have been tremendously fearless and motivated. Now this reservation looks a bit rundown – the people are friendly, however, and many of them seem to be working hard to re-establish their pride in their culture.
We decided to take today as an R&R day before we head out tomorrow. Both of us were pretty tired last night and thought having a down day would only make us stronger for our passage. Needless to say, we are enjoying it. The weather is gorgeous and warm – I am writing this in my bathing suit in the cockpit. We have been able to see all the weather maps and get all the information for the next week and it looks like it will be tremendous for us – Doug says he couldn’t have wished for anything better. What a relief that is! So just before lunch we left the dock, went to the fuel dock, loaded up the boat and jerry cans (we have almost enough to motor the whole way if we had to!) and then headed out to anchor off. It is a lovely bay and I love being on the hook. We had an excellent lunch in the cockpit. After that we did the final prep of the decks and below. We’re really ready to go!
I was looking through the USCP Pilot Book for the American west coast this afternoon and it says it is 683 nautical miles to San Francisco from here. We will need to go farther than that as we can’t really follow a rhumb (straight) line, but it means about 7 days. So all going well we should arrive in SF next Sunday or Monday.