Here you will find tales of voyages past and present on our trusty Pacific Seacraft Dana 24, "Sockdolager," and more recently, our Bigfoot29 powerboat, "Raven," 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, sailed to Mexico, 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. We are currently cruising in Canada and Alaska, and hope you enjoy reading about our adventures as much as we enjoy having them. (And there will be more.)

Sunday, June 27, 2010


It has been cold this June. Okay, not THAT cold. Photo of woolly mammoth taken by Karen at the BC museum in Victoria (but they used to be here.)

A definition of a nice day is: A nice day is what you make it. This year, June was in February and the real June was more like March. Hence Juneuary, the name in the Pacific Northwest for Junes like this. More gale warnings in the eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca than you can shake a stick at, but oddly enough, on the west coast of Vancouver Island where we’ve been lazing for the past 9 days, it’s been mostly overcast and chilly but no gales. It’s the kind of brooding coastal weather where, after you’ve had a good time beachcombing, fishing or hiking, or an excursion in the dinghy, you come back to the boat for a cuppa tea or cocoa or a glass of wine or beer and a snack, and it’s so snug and cozy you can’t believe you’re here and home at the same time. Let the wind howl in the rigging, the anchor’s well-set. When the sun shines and the sky’s blue, it’s almost unreasonably glorious. That’s our definition of a nice day, or series of them.

Sockdolager from the masthead. Note new 175-watt solar panel!

Here's our track so far.

Sockdolager and her crew enjoyed the ambiance of downtown Victoria at night, then sailed to the wilds of Barkley Sound.

We’ve forgotten what day it is, which was another goal. Barkley Sound has been a great place to wander among rocky islands and sugar-sand beaches. We’re in no hurry to leave. Jack the sea dog is especially enjoying the Sound of Barkley.

Transit: Sooke to Barkley Sound: We spent an extra day anchored behind Whiffen Spit in Sooke awaiting calmer winds, but caught two of the biggest Dungeness crabs ever. This photo is of the smaller of the two. Note the satisfied smile.

Jim is waiting for Karen to say she’s sick of eating crab. Good luck with that. Leaving on the ebb tide at oh-dark-thirty, we mostly motored into no wind, then light wind on the nose, and for the last third of the 16-hour, 80-mile passage, we motor-sailed into a 15-20 knot head wind and sloppy 6-foot seas.

Race Rocks Passage on a speedy 5-knot ebb. Olympic Mts are 35 miles across the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

At one point between two islands enroute to our anchorage in Dodger Channel, we were surfing at 8 knots. Not bad for a 21-foot waterline! Rounding Cape Beale was surprisingly difficult and we were glad that we’d decided to stay well offshore. We found our five-mile distance off quickly cut in half by the wind and seas (and probably currents.) The weather window closed shortly after we anchored, and it got windy and foggy again.

One of six eagles flies over Dodger Channel in Barkley Sound.

On Being Visitors: We anchored between two islands, both with cabins. Because of the cabins, we didn’t venture above the high tide line, figuring the land was privately owned. But we walked and beachcombed the lower beaches, found some beautiful tide pools in the rocks, and watched the colorful critters in them. The next day a family arrived and went ashore on the other island.

Karen picks edible wild sea asparagus (Pacific samphire) and later made a concoction with fresh wild oysters, garlic and white wine. Yum.

A man on the beach waved to us, and we went in for a chat. He introduced himself as Robert, the Chief Councillor of the Huu-ay-aht Tribe. He was very kind, and told us about the history of the islands, which are owned by his tribe. Robert told us Cape Beale with all its rocks is a big graveyard for ships. This may explain the amazing beachcombing on these islands. Weathered chips and shards of blue and white Chinese pottery, red and white chips from English china plates, plus earthenware and bottle glass in every color, was all washed up on the beach along with other debris (and some trash.)

This photo shows what Karen found in less than an hour. Robert pointed across the channel to Haines Island and said, “See that grove of new greener trees? That was a village. I was born there.” He and his family were readying the now-uninhabited structures for the Tribe’s summer camping. They live mostly in Port Alberni and number around 700. They’ve lived here for ten thousand years and once numbered 7,000 or more. We hadn’t realized it was Tribal land when we first anchored (no one was there yet and we’d tiredly missed the letters “IR”--for Indian Reservation, we assume--in the cruising guide.) Karen offered her beachcombed shards back to Robert in case taking them was an offense, but he smiled and said keep them. He pointed to a whale swimming out in deeper water, and we told him that six eagles had been there just before he arrived.

Contrast this kindness and understanding with the treatment we received in our brief stop at the nearby village of Bamfield, where we went a day later to reprovision. It’s hard to explain the weird vibe—no one said hello, but they stared. The fuel dock, which the guide said was open, was “temporarily closed” according to a sign, at which two men laughed. They said it had been “temporary” for three years so far. A couple of battered old boats blocked access to the water hose. The owner of the general store, where we bought groceries, would only with great reluctance answer Jim’s questions about where we might find laundry facilities, showers, internet connection, and fuel. He finally snapped that he didn’t run other peoples’ businesses. So we left that place. Often, it’s what the guidebooks don’t mention that is most telling, and the book’s treatment of Bamfield’s charms is minimal. However, they have the best climate change sign anywhere.

The 3 metal markers on this piling show sea level rises predicted-the middle mark is 2050. The lowest mark was more than 5 feet off the fixed pier. Quite sobering.

Enroute to tranquil Jacques Jervis lagoon in the Broken Group (part of the Pacific Rim National Park), we fished before we crossed the park boundary, which leads to another unbelievable story…

This is just a teaser, not the story. Slug Thingy (a sea slug) took our lure but we let it go, verrrry gingerly, after we brought it up from the depths. (Karen draws the line at recipes here.)

THIS is the story:

Get a load of that hook, huh? Was that a monster or what?

How to Instantly Amortize
Your Expensive Fishing Gear
The photo says it all. There we were, late afternoon in Imperial Channel, jigging with a weighted nausea-green squid at 170 feet. Mind you, Jim wasn’t taking any chances. He used the Big New Rod with 130-lb test line and its Herkin’ Big Reel. All was quiet until BANG! Bride of Codzilla took the bait and bent the Big New Rod nearly to the water. Holy halibut, thought Karen, that’s the Big New Rod bending, not the little one. Jim uttered something also starting with “Holy…” and began the tussle, which looked rather Hemingway-esque. He struggled for about a minute. Not quite enough time to judge our fish-powered boat speed. Then nothing. How did a fish like that manage to slip the hook under such firm pressure, we wondered as he reeled in the lure. Then we saw it. A fish that can bend the hook gets to slip it.

“Hmmm. Need bigger hooks,” grunts Jim. Uh-oh.

“Need to fish in shallower water,” says Karen.

Alright all you guitar-stringing, fish-slinging, hook-bending, line-tensioning guessers, tell us how big you calculate this fish was. We decided that one big bent steel hook, following closely on the heels of the original Codzilla, has given us a certain je ne sais quois in telling fish stories, the value of which we calculate to be about equal with the purchase price of the equipment.

How Minds Are Changed
Jacques Jervis lagoon gave us some landlocked tranquility for a few days. Karen finished the full draft of her novel and Jim went up the mast to inspect the rig.

Jim ascends to check the rigging.

Jim waaaaaay up the mast.

Author at work, using solar panel-supplied electricity.

But we missed the movement and sights of more open waters, so we left, first making a stop to fish with the aforementioned Big New gear plus two New Herkin’ Halibut Hooks and a delicious-looking slimy thing I’ll call SquidMan. No luck. We’ll try again, and you will be the first to hear about it. Now for the changing minds part.

So we sail on the genoa and a stiff westerly down to Effingham Bay, where we anchor for the night. We were planning to cook fish and chips but without fish it’s pretty hard. “It’s gruel for supper, swabbies,” announces Karen as she considers what to do with some leftover effing ham. We go ashore, and while we’re bushwhacking through a rough, wet but very fun jungle-y trail across Effingham Island to find some cliffs at Meares Bluff which never did appear, due to the trail leading us somewhere else, a big powerboat, probably 50 or 60 feet, anchors quite close to us in an otherwise nearly empty bay.

The "trail" across Effingham Island was effing difficult.

A man-eating land slug on a large log tells us this is the Pacific Northwest, and we ain't in Kansas anymore. Recipe? Don't even think about it.

Tide pools on the other side of Effingham Island were effing wonderful. Here are sea anemones and a typical starfish, which come in maroon, purple and brown as well as orange.

Returning to Sockdolager in our dinghy after the hike, Karen spies the big powerboat, which shall remain nameless but whose name rhymes with Dodo. She sees how huge and close it is, hears its generator, smells its exhaust, and utters a string of salty epithets about big stinky noisy fuel-hogging inconsiderate powerboats outnumbering the small sailboats and then anchoring on top of them, why those rotten bastidges, now we have to listen to their generator all night, etc etc. If you know Karen at all, you get the idea.

Jim notices they’re cleaning fish on the stern deck and decides to row over and ask them about where they went and what bait they used. First thing they do is yell, “YOU WANT SOME HALIBUT?” Whoa! Things are looking up! We yell of course we do, and they pass us a nice small chunk, enough for supper. They got it 20 miles offshore, in some fishing spot named the Rat’s Nose. As we return to Sockdolager, Karen turns to Jim and says, “I guess they’re not so bad.” At which he guffaws and she adds, “Am I that easily bought off?”

Jim drives the new dinghy. We finally went with an inflatable after researching and rejecting every other possibility for rigid dinghies, because the boat's too small to store one that's practical for daily use on deck.

But the powerboat is still too close and they know it. While dinner is cooking aboard Sockdolager, we witness a feat of brute force over prudent seamanship. First we hear the twin VROOM! VROOM! of their big engines rumbling to life. Hooray, they’re moving! But wait, nobody’s on the foredeck doing anything to bring up the anchor. The boat angles itself in an odd direction, stern away from us, but their anchor’s still on the bottom and nobody’s still on deck. Suddenly, DOUBLE LOUD VROOOOM! They gun the engines in reverse and drag their entire anchor and chain 200 feet, going seven or eight knots across the bay in reverse. The anchor drags as if through jello, but the bottom is anything but jello. Their engine rpms finally lower to idle, but the boat’s going fast, its momentum keeping them racing astern until it looks like they’ll crash into shore. Just in time, they stop, and stay there, close alongside a rock reef. Good grief. A million-dollar yacht has just re-anchored itself in the strangest, most ecologically arrogant and damaging way possible, not to mention being an example of jaw-droppingly bad seamanship. Grateful we were not in their way, Karen goes back to thinking they’re not such a good bunch after all.

Karen beachcombs at Dodd Island in Barkley Sound's Broken Group.

Wowser, it’s Wouwer!
The wind came up a bit in the night and rocked the anchorage. We decided to go visit wild Wouwer Island, where a sea lion rookery is right inside a small bay. It’s exposed to the open ocean, so the seas tossed us around a bit as we threaded between islands and rounded the rocky corner before Wouwer’s little bay. In the distance on an islet out in the ocean we could see the sea lions, but not on the rookery near us. It was exciting and fun being out there among wild rocky places in the wind and surf, but it’s no place for a small boat and was too rough for fishing further offshore, so we set sail off the wind and headed back into the maze of islands of the Broken Group, anchoring in Joe’s Bay next to Dodd Island. Bertram Levy’s beautiful Able, a Bristol Channel Cutter which he keeps on the same dock as us in Port Townsend, was anchored nearby and we invited him, his wife Bobbie and daughter Madeleine over for snacks and to play music. Bertram brought his concertina, Madeleine her fiddle, and Karen got out her guitar. Merry sounds emanated from Sockdolager’s cabin for a couple of hours as we went through Irish, folk, sea chanteys and jazz tunes together. What’s wonderful about them is that they’ve been taking these adventuresome family vacations together for years and they sail everywhere with skill and panache, including through rocky channels that would leave the rest of us quavering.

Able's crew: Bertram, Madeleine and Bobbie aboard Sockdolager for a gam.

Old-growth tree on Dodd Island.

Currently we’re in Ucluelet on the northwest end of Barkley Sound, in no hurry to get anywhere fast.

Appreciating every day
We mentioned that our beloved Jack the sea dog is along on this trip, and it has been a merry chase so far. Jack, a 10 ½ year-old Brussels Griffon, makes us laugh every day and seems to be having a blast, especially when Jim takes him for a little zoom in the dinghy. Wearing his yellow lifejacket with its black straps, which makes him look like a 15-pound bumblebee, he peers into the water and thinks he’s rearranging the critters on the bottom as he "talks" to them.

The history, for those of you who don’t know, is that Jack was mistreated as a pup and Karen rescued him from a situation that was going nowhere. He has had a lifelong fear of strangers, which manifests itself in much barking and unpleasantness, so Karen has kept him separated from all but the most determined people who want to make friends with him. In the last 2 years Jack has developed congestive heart failure, and it is now stage 4. On Saturday night he experienced what appeared to be a serious heart attack, with first a seizure and then falling on his side and not breathing. Karen could not detect a heartbeat for about 30 seconds and feared he was gone, but his brave little heart started up again and he resumed breathing. After resting all night and the next day, he seems to be normal again with a good appetite. But we know each day with him is borrowed time, and we are appreciating every remaining minute with our little Jackety-Jack.

Jack the sea dog, kinda snoozin'.

1 comment:

  1. Awww... love the Jackster. I wish you many days to appreciate!

    Your adventure is going swimmingly -- er... sailingly! Love hearing from you, and look forward to seeing you in August.