Photo by Elizabeth Becker of Seaport Photography.
If you look at a map of the furthest upper left-hand corner of the United States, you’ll see where we are: Neah Bay, just inside Cape Flattery at the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We might even be able to claim that as I write this, Sockdolager is likely the furthest west anchored boat in the Lower 48!
Instead of dawdling, we decided to take advantage of a break in the winds and scoot out here. We left Port Townsend at 0415 on an ebb and motored in a straight line to Port Angeles, arriving to anchor before the afternoon westerlies made things unpleasant in the Strait.
Heading west at sunrise.
Bertram Levy and his family arrived within an hour, aboard their lovely wooden cutter, Able. They’re enroute to Barkley Sound in Canada. After enjoying a brief visit with them, we napped and then arose just after midnight to slog down the Strait into headwinds and seas, but on a fair tide of two knots. Able sailed into Neah Bay a few hours later.
Able anchors in Neah Bay after a long day.
From Neah Bay we succeeded in sending a quick post to the blog via Ham radio; when you see our names as senders, as shown in the previous post, it’s coming from our radio. It’s a complicated process, and transmissions tend to give Sockdolager a power surge that sets navigation lights to flashing and bilge alarms to squealing. Jim installed a few ferrite chokes (Ham geek-speak) on wires and it helped, but there is still more ferrite choking needed.
The Many Stages of Leaving:
It’s hard to describe what it feels like to deliberately turn your life upside down and leave home on a small (some say too small) boat for a sea-voyage of unknown duration, to fabled tropical isles. Not the usual thing on most been-there-done-that bucket lists. The act of leaving can be uncharted territory. There were so many feelings swirling on those last days in Port Townsend—excitement, exhaustion, happiness, twinges of sadness, love for dear friends, celebrations, a little worry, and a slowly dawning “We did it!” high-fived in the cockpit once underway.
There was the July 4th Mother of All Dock Parties—friends, nearly 40 of them throughout the day, surprised us by coming from as far away as Portland, Oregon and Alaska, as well as nearby. At one point Sockdolager’s bow pointed saucily skyward as 14 people lounged and chatted in the cockpit, on the foredeck, and down below—a new record for this 24-footer.
Our friends Kristen (shown, in sling) and her husband Lou flew their own plane to PT from Spokane via Alaska, to say goodbye; Yvonne (at right) expressed a longing to go back to living aboard a boat.
The party was followed that evening by a fireworks and s’mores beach bonfire party at Anna and Peter’s. (Note to self: remember not to sit between well-stocked, competing fireworks factions.)
There were good wishes, via dozens of emails, for a bon voyage. There was our collective “Whew!” once both trucks were sold the next day and insurance policies cancelled. There was this “What are we forgetting?” inability to stop being a couple of stressed-out walking lists. And then there were gales—four days of hard worrisome wind that kept us at the dock longer than we’d anticipated. That became a good thing, because we were far more tired than expected. There were friends Klaus and Maria, two circumnavigators who’ve rounded Cape Horn (wow!) giving us the honor of casting off our docklines, tooting a fabulously loud horn as we left.
Klaus and Maria aboard Ludus Amoris. Photo courtesy of Klaus & Maria.
There were Lon and Joan and a posse of camera-toting friends in three boats, who snapped away as we sailed merrily back and forth together in front of Port Townsend.
Sockdolager and Selkie sail together. Photo credit: S/V Blackfin.
And there was Port Townsend herself, dressed in the finest blue sky with a lace cloud collar, beguiling us one last time in the alpenglow of a pink sunset that reflected off the Cascades. What a sendoff!
Always look back: Somehow the advice “Never look back” has become part of the lexicon of leaving. We do it anyway. When you get underway at first light and the waterfront is still sleeping like a plein air watercolor, you’d be crazy not to look back.
Goodbye, Puget Sound.
When sunrise over the Cascades bounces off the Olympics and colors your westbound wake a spectacular pewter-pink, you must look back, because it’s one last message: Don’t forget where your home is! We won’t forget, and we promise to keep in touch while we wander.
Arrivals, too: There are, of course, a few arrivals with every departure. The arrival of constant motion into our lives. Unlimited horizons. We welcome the sight of morning rafts of seabirds—rhinoceros auklets, puffins, common murres, and marbled murrelets—foraging for breakfast, giving little wing flips to dive and “fly” under water. We rediscover how extraordinarily good simple food tastes at sea. We welcome lungfuls of clean salt air, watch a wall of fog stay politely on the Canadian side of the Strait, hit the pillow tired in the evening, and cheerfully arise at midnight to catch a speedy ebb tide.
Goodbye, Discovery Bay and the Olympics.
Now the final preparations for an offshore passage are being made at Neah Bay. San Francisco is over 700 miles away, and it’ll be the longest passage we’ve done together. This is the time for attention to details: secure lifelines, lockers, hatches, anchors, check the engine, rigging, sails and safety gear, go over the navigation and sailing directions, put quick-to-make foods in easy reach, make up the sea-berths, and more. When the weather window arrives, we’ll go. From the looks of the weather, conditions may be right on Friday or Saturday. It should be a 5 to 10 day passage (about 750 miles) and we’ll stop at Drake’s Bay, 26 miles north of San Francisco, to rest before attempting to enter the big city.
We just had to include this little item:
Alaskan friends take note: We have located the Bridge to Nowhere. It’s in the NW corner of Neah Bay, and seagulls are lovin’ it.