Neah Bay. The northwesternmost outpost in the Lower 48. A good passage this time. After a gentle but fast 32-hour trip in which the sense of being in a night tunnel was amplified by wafts of fog lit eerily by the navigation lights, Cape Flattery materialized late this morning as a smear on the horizon, a dark presence hinting of cliffs and the edge of a continent. The outline of Tatoosh Island solidified, and soon the tide swept us past that and into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Last night I was feeling nostalgic on my midnight to four watch, thinking about people and places--especially about our Kiwi friends Alison and Stuart. Alison has been ill lately. Suddenly an overpowering smell surrounded us, like a warm wind blowing over strong fish and, well, something else: unmistakably whale breath. Then, right next to us, an enormous exhalation, the workings of its lungs clearly audible. More breaths. A pod of whales in the night, me unafraid but hoping they'd avoid our hull, which they did.
A light westerly sprang up in the morning to blow us home, and as we entered the Strait, a patch of sky cleared and the sun came out. We have left the pelicans behind and are again among eagles.
An email message from Stuart awaited us: Alison passed away last night. I will miss her friendship, wonderfully acerbic wit and sharp mind, and our thoughts and sympathies turn to Stuart. Godspeed, friends.
Tomorrow at first light we'll head east toward Port Angeles, about 50 miles away, and then we'll be only a day's sail from Port Townsend and our sweet homecoming. More will follow.
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