We’ve been out for a week and a day, and it feels like a month. Sailors take note: the sea is good for you, best savored on a small boat. The first night anchored out followed a frenzied day of last-minute to-do stuff that seemed important at the time, so we tiredly anchored in front of Port Townsend’s Northwest Maritime Center and went ashore for an evening of chantey singing. It was terrific—probably 25 or 30 people sitting in a large circle with almost as many in the audience. Our friends Steve Lewis and Mike James, both expert chanteymen, kept the songs coming as we went around the circle and each person sang one or requested their choice. People came from as far away as Seattle, Olympia and even Portland. When it was our turn to sing, Jim and I reprised our version of “I Been Everywhere,” naming 95 Canadian places in a 5-verse, 4-minute song we wrote last summer. It sounds kind of like the old commercials by the fast-talking Fed Ex guy. Not exactly a chantey, but still fun. We will perform this little number again at the Pacific Seacraft rendezvous in early August.
Currently we’re docked in front of the Empress Hotel in downtown Victoria, BC. The sound of a busker’s steel drums playing Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” drifts across the water and collides surreally with a bluesman’s attempt to play harmonica, guitar, drums, and a couple other instruments at the same time while a carillon dishes out classical bell tunes. All this over the whistle of a 35-knot clear gale with bright sunny skies and the deep hoot of the cross-sound ferry horn. So, you might wonder: Victoria is only 35 miles from Port Townsend, what have these two been doing?
Rhymes with Juan de Fuca:The 30 mile-wide Strait of Juan de Fuca gave us a boisterous crossing the first day out, with big westerly winds and beam seas that saw Sockdolager quickly reefed down. Our course was slightly east of north. Jack the sea dog wedged himself all the way forward into the V-berth (V in this case now meaning varmint) and Jim went down into the cabin to fetch something. Suddenly he hollered, “Water on the cabin sole!” This is not a welcome announcement at any time, but at sea it’s especially not welcome. It could mean two things: one, the bilges are full and it’s slopping into the cabin because we’re sinking; or, (much preferred) something in one of the cockpit lockers is leaking and it’s a minor matter. It was neither.
After sleuthing around we found that it was salt water dribbling out the top end of a vent tube from the newly installed dripless shaft seal. (Non-sailors just skip this part.) Jim had installed the new seal in April and, following their directions, put the top of the tube above the waterline, but not enough. The problem with a sailboat is that once the boat heels over, the waterline changes significantly, and this tube was just low enough to allow a steady dribble. So this meant mopping out the cabin sole (floor) every 20 minutes or so. Not a big deal, except trying to do that in 4-6 foot seas made Jim seasick. But soon we were at a mooring in Cypress Island State Park on the east side of the San Juans. Next day we sailed to Anacortes and purchased everything needed to fix the problem. And neither Jim nor the Turkish rug, which had its first saltwater baptism, are any worse for wear.
The Mother of All Marine Hardware Stores: About 10 blocks from the marina in Anacortes is a place that is the closest thing you’ll find to sailor’s hardware heaven this side of Davy Jones’s locker. Wooden floors, tarred marline and cordage of every size and type, big things made of bronze, archaic and modern tools, dusty shelves filled with an amazing variety of stuff that really works, and a staff that ought to serve water with their jokes. We loved Marine Supply! After a pleasant hour, Jim spotted a one-gallon can of Penetrol, a paint and varnish conditioner, high on a shelf. He photographed it. This got the helpful staff curious. The photograph on the Penetrol can is of the J.N. Carter, a Chesapeake Bay Bugeye schooner that Karen skippered back in the 80s.
That photo is almost 30 years old and they’re still using it. When Jim told the staff the story, they had Cap’n Karen autograph the can and a print of the photo. Fifteen minutes of fame at Marine Supply—it just doesn’t get any cooler than that!
Finally, a watering place for humans. Creative people, these Anacortians. It's right outside the Marine Supply.
What more does one really need? We met our friends Don and Karla Marken for dinner aboard their 20-foot Flicka named Kira, which they’ve had for at least 20 years. Talk about having your priorities straight. These two retired, sold their house, moved aboard their boat, and spend their time traveling in a Eurovan when they’re not sailing the Salish Sea or backpacking to Peru or other exotic places. Those of you on 20 year plans take note: it might not take a full 20 years to go play if you can do without the land trappings.
Fast forward: From Anacortes we made a circuit through the San Juans, ducking into Blind Bay on Shaw Island and Reid Harbor on Stuart Island to await favorable winds. Reid Harbor has some of the best mud anywhere. To non-sailors that may sound weird, even kinky, but good mud that holds your anchor is the ticket to a decent night’s sleep. This mud is so good that when we set the anchor on a flying moor as is our preference, it spun us right around like we had brakes. Niiiiiice mud.
We sailed to Canada early in the morning on a monster ebb that gave us an extra 4 knots down Haro Strait. After anchoring in Cadboro Bay (10 miles east of Victoria) and clearing customs, we were made welcome at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club, a fine and hospitable place if there ever was one.
Our friends Kirk and Karen Palmer (pictured at a very jolly dinner for 8), whom we met last summer in the Queen Charlottes, were busy helping to run the biannual Pacific Rim Challenge (a race series) and hosting teams from Japan, Australia, New Zealand and the US. Here's the routine: Sail, eat, drink, laugh, tell stories, sleep. Repeat, adding a hike now and then. What great hosts. We did this for three enjoyable days, which helps to explain why we’re only 35 miles from Port Townsend as the crow flies, but light years from stress as the sails fly.
Dana 24 owners get together: One of the visiting Japanese sailors is a very interesting and accomplished man whom we were eager to meet. Yasuo Hayama bought a Dana 24 (same boat as ours) in 2002 and promptly sailed it solo from California to Japan—at age 66! The voyage took 79 days. He wrote a book about it, but it is in Japanese only. We enjoyed the company of Yasuo and his wife Michiko, and learned that among sailors, some things need no translation. Yasuo understood immediately our questions about his voyage, and when he and Michiko came aboard Sockdolager, almost no language barrier existed as we spoke of sailing subjects. As soon as we told him about our meeting because of owning two Dana 24s, he exclaimed, “Ah! Two singlehanders!” That’s another cool thing about sailing—some things need no translation.
Yasuo and Michiko aboard Sockdolager for a visit.
Now we await a more favorable wind that will let us sail west. So far the wind has been so strong on the nose that progress has been rather roundabout. We’ll be heading west out the Strait and to Barkley Sound and beyond as soon as we can.
Next stop, Sooke, then Barkley Sound as soon as the wind moderates.