Here you will find tales of voyages past and present on our trusty Pacific Seacraft Dana 24, "Sockdolager," from Port Townsend, Washington, USA. In 2009 we sailed north from Puget Sound up the west coast of Vancouver Island to the Queen Charlotte Islands (now called Haida Gwaii.) In 2010 we went back to the west coast of Vancouver Island. In July 2011 we left the Northwest, and in March 2012 we crossed the Pacific to French Polynesia, then on to the Cooks, Niue and Tonga. We spent several months in New Zealand, and in May 2013 loaded the boat (and ourselves) on a container ship for San Francisco. In June and July 2013 we sailed north along the California, Oregon and Washington coasts, and in August we arrived home. In October 2016 Sockdolager found new owners, and we are now enjoying Raven, a unique wooden 29' powerboat. Plans are to head north. We hope you enjoy reading about our adventures as much as we enjoy having them. (And there will be more.)



Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Post Cards from the Ocean Road




The stories behind these photos are posted below. But a photo of the Cap'n right after he fell in from the dinghy was just too darned good not to share.

We’re in Port Alice

In the middle near the top of Vancouver Island is a lumber mill town deep in a fjord, and that’s where we are. It is by far the friendliest place on a very friendly coast. Within a couple of hours of arriving, we were given a three-pound slab of fresh halibut, 40 huge frozen prawns, loads of fishing advice, a ride to the gas station, which sells fishing tackle, and a snug berth at the humble but mighty Port Alice Yacht Club. “What’ll we owe you for the berth?” asked Jim. “Oh, five hundred a night, plus another three hundred for electricity,” deadpanned Lee, the harbormaster. “And a hundred more for security,” added Dave, who’d driven down to welcome us after seeing us coming down the fjord. They gave us a gate key and showed us a little hole in the wall where we could place a nominal donation upon leaving.

Although we spent over a hundred dollars on fishing tackle, we think the best advice may have been from the loquacious gang at the hardware store: “Always BUY your fish. It’s cheaper than the three thousand dollars a pound it costs us old farts who went and bought all the gear.” So, did we eat out last night? Hell no, we made fish and chips on board. Delicious.

Port Alice has an excellent grocery store. We’ll reprovision here for the next six weeks. Catching up on stories, here are a few:

Coastwise from Kyuquot Sound: Rockin’ and rollin’ in a big swell, we threaded our way through a rocky inside channel north of Walter’s Cove, to yet another gorgeous cove in the renowned Bunsby Islands. We just love that name—Bunsby. So proper. “Shall we have tea in the Bunsbys?” we asked each other. Indubitably! Over tea and sandwiches we toasted our tea-loving friend Dave Mac. Then we set the crab trap, took solar showers, and sunned our stunned buns in the fun Bunsbys, under warm afternoon sunshine.

A swell passage: Leaving the Bunsbys, we were greeted by a hearty swell and a headwind, and met three cruising sailboats all headed south. One called us on the radio and said, “You’re doing it the hard way. You’re sailing upwind!” But we made sheltered Columbia Cove in good time and it is a stunner. You can anchor snugly at its head, but with the rugged views all around it feels like you’re clinging to a high rock wall.

Offshore: June 20 was our day to round the fearsome Brooks Peninsula. At least that’s how the cruising guides describe it. They like to put the fear of Neptune in you. Underway at 0500, the winds were light so we motor-sailed. Jim said, “I hope we get ten foot swells!” However, he forgot to ask for enough wind. Around Cape Cook and Solander Island the swell stood right up and began tossing us around as it ricocheted off the cliffs. Three humpbacks and two black-footed albatross, along with lots of other bird life, frolicked in the now-billowing main. The swell built (but the wind didn’t) to 8 to 10 feet, then 10 with a few 12s. Must be a big storm far away. A couple of southbound sailboats we passed disappeared completely in the troughs. Seeing small mountains come at you and lift, then drop you, is fun in a queasy kind of way. Jim has promised to order more wind next time.

Entering Quatsino Sound surfing down big swells, we came around the corner to Forward Inlet where ten eagles greeted us with dives and swoops for salmon all around us. They fold their wings and rocket down to the water, flaring out at the last minute to extend their sharp talons and snag a fish. It was an awesome sight. Another disgustingly lovely cove in Browning Inlet gave us solitude and a peaceful night.

Next morning, over coffee in the cockpit: Karen: “Sure is a nice day.” Jim: “The Dreamspeaker Cruising Guide says they saw a black bear on the shore right here. I want to see a black bear.” Karen: “That was more than a year ago.” Jim: “But they promised us a black bear.” Karen: “It’s a marketing issue, isn’t it. Should we feel ripped off?” Then... we kid you utterly not, a bear appeared. “Hey! A black bear! I don’t believe it!” The bear hung around and we examined it with binoculars to be sure it wasn’t a mechanical wind-up Disney bear. It was not, and it stayed there munching grass while we raised sail and got underway. But it was irresistible to call to it: “Bye-bye, Boo-Boo!”

Fjordwise: On the 28-mile way up the fjord to where we are now, the biggest gust of wind we’ve had yet heeled us over and put the rail under water. A few unsecured objects in the galley took the opportunity to pelt Karen, who voiced her feelings in choicest nauticalese. We trolled for salmon, lingcod, snapper, hell, anything that would bite, all the way up the fjord, but no luck. However, Julian Cove was enough reward. On the way in, a light green delta-winged underwater formation glowed eerily, and we avoided it until later when we went exploring by dinghy. It was a huge raft of jellyfish, 25 feet long, 10 feet wide and 15 feet deep, all mushed together in a writhing mass. “Don’t fall in,” I said to Jim, which is exactly what he did about an hour later, though happily, not into the jellyfish. Seems he’d been getting a bit nonchalant about leaping aboard from the dinghy. Karen heard a big splash and found him half-wet and clinging to the gunnels looking comically sheepish. It was an excellent photo-op.

It being the solstice and a good day, we decided to stay up until we could see stars, no mean feat in these light northern summers. We finally saw Venus at nearly eleven o’clock pm. With her guitar Karen serenaded Jim while he pulled up the crab trap in twilight. She made up a new version of “Shoals of Herring.” But the trap was empty. Turns out crabs don’t appreciate music.

We'll be headed out to sea soon. We may go directly from Quatsino to the Queen Charlottes if the weather looks good enough. It's a hundred and thirty miles direct, more if you have to tack. We'll let you know as soon as possible how it goes, but it may be awhile.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Aid to Navigation, Kyuquot Sound

We kid you not... this road sign is out on the tip of an island, and it describes perfectly the route through the rocks in the narrow channel ahead.

In Kyuquot Sound; first rain in 22 days

That stretch of good weather was a record-breaker, and we're pleased to have been in the region for most of it. Not that the winds have all been fair, but even from the northwest they've been reasonable. We decided to beat a forecast 35-knot gale, however, up to Kyuquot Sound, so we left Friendly Cove on Monday to head here. Ironically, it was utterly windless until the end of the day. Lots of wildlife is visible when it's calm. We saw short-tailed shearwaters in large groups, California gulls, tufted puffins, black guillemots, parakeet auklets, some other unidentified small dark alcids, harbor porpoises, sea otters, and at least eleven large racing sailboats headed south. Well, sailboats sometimes count as wild life!

So when we entered Kyuquot Sound we were surprised by the color of the water--pure turquoise, just like the Caribbean except milky like an Alaskan fjord. None of the cruising guides mention that. The wind began to pick up and it looked like the gale was imminent, so we headed deep into the sound, to a cove within a cove, called Dixie, on Hohoae Island, where we felt no wind at all. The anchor was hardly down before the crab pot was, and in a one-beer soak Jim pulled up a huge Dungeness crab that fed us both! It rained steadily all night and all the next day, and was still raining this morning when we decided to pick our way through shoals and rocky islets to a tiny settlement called Walter's Cove, where local residents are extremely friendly and kind.

Next is a cove in the Bunsby Islands, then Columbia Cove on the Brooks Peninsula, then Quatsino Sound, where we will reprovision for the weeks in the Queen Charlottes. Interesting fact about the Brooks Peninsula: A couple of whale scientists aboard a boat for a group called Strait Watch told us that the humpback populations are divided into two main groups. One migrates along the coast, wintering in Mexico and going about as far north as the Brooks Peninsula. The other is the northern group, wintering in Hawaii and migrating to Alaska. There are even some humpbacks from Indonesia that join the northern group! Seeing all this wildlife and magnificent scenery feeds the soul.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Historic Place



We're anchored in the cove in Nootka Sound, just a slim neck of land away from the huge Pacific, where three civilizations came together and sometimes to blows:  we're in Friendly Cove, where Captains Vancouver and Quadra negotiated the accord that divvied up the entire west coast of North America between Spain and England, while First Nations people watched and waited, and made their feelings on the matter known later.  Captain Cook was here, with Bligh and Vancouver as crew, in 1778; the Spanish were here throughout the 1600s and 1700s; Vancouver's journal in 1792 describes a place that has, since that eventful time, slipped back into obscurity and overgrowth.  Where thousands lived there are now fewer than a quiet dozen.  But the place shrieks its history if you read the books, follow the trails, and watch for clues of what went on here.  

Nootka Sound was the largest center of commerce (fur trade, sea otter skins) and human population on the entire North American coast north of Mexico, for several hundred years.  Now it's just us and a couple of nonchalant sea otters lazing in the bay, and some fascinating structures ashore.  For you sailors, we're pleased to note that we short-tacked into this small cove in rather colorful Chinese fire drill fashion, and anchored under sail, just as the sailors of yore would have done. We figure their ghosts got a chuckle out of it.  Switching centuries, we're also pleased that the Lighthouse keepers, with whom we had a good visit, have very kindly beamed their wireless modem into the cove so that we can connect and update this blog.  Imagine that!

Now for some catching up.  Let's start with a subject we'll call  Fishing for Dummies:  Since neither of us has a clue about fishing but we borrowed a bunch of gear anyway, Jim went to the source: a Tofino fisherman.  He asked him how to fish.  Recovering his composure, the fisherman said, on seeing out crab pot, "Crabs will eat eat anything!"  So after we sailed to a tiny unnamed place in Clayoquot Sound informally called West White Pine Cove, we dropped the crab trap in 55 feet with our strategic bait:  a pepperoni stick.  We lowered it to the bottom to the tune of "High hopes, we've got hiiiiiiigh hopes!" buoyed it with a boat fender, and left it in for exactly 35 minutes.    We pulled it up.  There were two pepperoni sticks.  Just kidding.  Okay, crabs need more time to warm up to pepperoni.  We lowered it again and let it sit all night.  The morning's catch was one measly claw mark in the otherwise untouched pepperoni stick.  Turns out crabs have a deep-seated fear of spices.  Who knew?

Sailing into Unknown Anchorages:  The thrill of leaving your sails up long after most people would have doused them, to sail rather than motor into an anchorage you've never entered before, is maybe a little crazy but fun.  It's that think-fast, pay-attention adrenalin kick of uncertainty and in-the-moment physicality as you wait till the last minute for a wind lift that'll get you around the rocks to leeward.  You glide in with the quiet satisfaction that an engine can't supply, let go the anchor and hear the chain rumble out, feel it grab the bottom and tug the moving boat around head to wind, all sails gently luffing, and you turn-to at furling sails and preparing the boat for a quiet night at anchor in a nameless wilderness cove.  Nothing beats that.

The Hike that Roared:  We tried a tough hike up a mountainside through a maze of fallen and standing old growth trees, with deep holes at every step and big logs like bridges across chasms.  We turned back after Karen popped both shoulders trying to climb out of a hole between two logs.  The bugs bite savagely there, too. Maybe they're velociraptors.  K's arm swelled up and looked like Popeye's; J had lots of cuts and bruises, too.  We decided that we're just too wise to go on another hike like that.  Note we didn't say old.
The photo is Karen stuck in a hole between two fallen logs.

The Best Bay We Ever Saw:  Going as far back into a fjord as we could sail, we found the closest thing to a perfect anchorage we may ever see:  Bacchante Bay.  It had everything:  wildlife in abundance, a good beach, a meadow, old-growth forest on vertical mountains, good holding for the anchor, moderate depths, a river to explore, a waterfall... well, you get the idea.  The only thing it didn't have was crabs for the pot.  

The Best Shower and Bath We Ever Had:  This is one for the books.  After sailing down-fjord back to the Pacific on the far west side of Clayoquot Sound, we found a slim harbor called Hot Springs Cove and anchored behind a floating B&B, a gorgeously refurbished 1920's inter-island freighter now called the "InnChanter." A row ashore at 6:00 pm after all the tourists had left gave us a walk in utter solitude, on a 2-km-long boardwalk, with hundreds of planks beautifully carved with the names of visiting boats, through some of the wildest forest either of us has ever seen.  Imagine an enchanted forest with fantastical trees and root shapes, dripping grottoes, old cedars at least ten feet thick and nearly two hundred feet tall, filtered sunlight and the sounds of crashing surf, then a waft of sulfur and you cross a wooden bridge over a steaming stream bubbling up out of a hole in the ground, and you've arrived at the hot springs.  It was great.  We stood under a hot waterfall and let the torrent warm us in the cool evening breeze, then we soaked in each pool in a line toward the sea, each one cooler than the last, until we reached a pool where the waves washed in with shots of cold water.  

"WHOAAAA!" we'd yell as surf tumbled toward us.  "AAAAAA!" as it dumped cold water in our laps.  "Ahhhhhh!" as it receded and our warm nook filled with hot spring water again.  Suddenly a line of big, REALLY big swells began breaking.  Things got briefly exciting.  We scrambled back to more sedate pools.  A final drench in the hot torrent and we dried off and began trekking like a couple of noodles along our boardwalk highway through Mirkwood.  And the most amazing part?  We had it all to ourselves, with not another soul there to harsh our mellow.
 
 
Fishing For Dummies Redux:  When we rowed back to Sockdolager and pulled up our crab pot (now baited with chicken bones) there was one pissed-off rock crab in it.  While we were figuring out how to dispatch it, it got away, dagnabit.  So we decided to go high tech, and punched some holes in a plastic Crystal Light can, filled it with hot dogs, and lowered it.  Two females were thrown back, but then we cadged a salmon head off the dock and it was like using the nucular option.  Jim put the pot in for what he calls a "two-beer soak" and when we pulled it up, well, can you say Crabalicious?  Last night we feasted on a crab dinner, drawn butter, Old Bay, da woiks.  Oh it was good.  We speak crab now.  The fishing pole is next:  we have to unwind the birds nest of line it made after one cast.  All is well, we are happy, sailing all we can and eating like kings.





In Friendly Cove

Nootka Sound. Beautiful day. Using the coast guard station's net connection.

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Time for some photos





We are lazing at Tofino.
Captions for these photos:

The ship's coffeepot, log and charts of the Straits crossing. 

The off-watch 
getting some ZZZZ.


We saw 8 ships while crossing the western entrance of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.  Weird mirage-this is a cruise ship but the superstructure is stretched.
Same cruise ship a couple minutes later.


Untangling the anchor from a giant wad of kelp and a crab pot buoy.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

In Tofino, East Clayoquot Sound


Under sail in the big rolling Pacific swells and a SE wind that we wished was stronger, we trundled right up the coast past thundering breakers, squadrons of pelicans (??) and two humpback whales spy-hopping to get a look at us. Also saw the first sooty shearwaters of the trip. Have been counting marbled murrelets for a friend who studies them. The boat performed magnificently and we are now at anchor in Tofino Harbor, tired but pleased. After today, we figure internet access might be more limited to the north of here.

Friday, June 5, 2009

In Ucluelet

Had a calm crossing from Neah Bay to Vancouver Island in shorts and tee shirts. Then it blew 30+ while we were at the dock. Off tomorrow to explore Barkley Sound, or head north if wind is favorable.

Sent from my iPhone

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Forewordplay

Okay, enough of you have noticed so it's time to explain: Honest! It was inadvertent! The word 'sexcellent' never entered our minds when we titled this blog, but the email address removed all those convenient little apostrophes and Spaces of Purity between the words and mashed them all together, and viola! A surprise double entendre email address that lands us in some peoples' spam boxes. Those who have noticed are getting a charge out of it, and replying with virtual winks and arched eyebrows. Yes, inquiring minds want to know about the sexcellent adventure. Well, tough noogies, we ain't tellin'. But that request from someone to be a crew is respectfully declined.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Briny Fun



First day: After another delay, we sailed out of Port Townsend on a steady breeze into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, anchoring for the night just inshore (in 75 feet of water) of where Vancouver anchored in May 1792. Sockdolager and Discovery are separated by a mere 217 years. To commemorate our departure, his arrival, and the wild beauty of this place he named, we read his exact words from his journal, looking around and matching scenery to description. We marveled at snowy mountains, including a volcano, found features he named in Discovery Bay, and watched Protection Island’s huge cliffs stuffed with birds come alive. A gift bottle of sparkling brut didn’t hurt matters, either. The birds of Protection Island raise a din unmolested by humans, Heumanns or Sullivans; none of the latter are allowed ashore at this national wildlife refuge, where tufted puffins and rhinoceros auklets nest. If I come back as a bird I want to be called a rhinoceros. But the closing of the refuge to the public gives us another gift: birdlife and its sounds as sailors may have witnessed 217 years ago. The anchorage was calm, sunny, and we had it all to ourselves.
Second day, flat calm, and another national wildlife refuge: Dungeness Spit. We anchored near the historic lighthouse, rowed ashore and were treated to a tour by the lighthouse keepers. Vancouver’s descriptions of this wild place showed it hasn’t changed much.
Third day, it was sail all the way, including weighing anchor and coming into Port Angeles under sail, which is indescribably fun after a sparkling day in the Strait under main, genoa and staysail. An air inversion created weird mirages and effects, such as a distant boat splitting into three parallel images, distant points of land hanging out over the water, and the ability to hear very clearly, VHF radio calls from Point Roberts to Bellingham to Oak Harbor.
This morning we arose at 3:15 to catch a speedy ebb tide, and although there was again no wind and we had to motor, it was a watercolor morning and we are now in Neah Bay positioned to catch a favorable forecast wind to take us to Barkley Sound on Vancouver Island. We’ve only just started, but already it’s hard to beat.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Now at New Dungeness Spit


The longest sand spit in the known universe. We are reading Vancouver's journal and seeing through eyes that saw this place in 1794.

East wind predicted for next few days - we'll ride it as far as we can.