Here you will find tales of voyages past and present on our trusty Pacific Seacraft Dana 24, "Sockdolager," and 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 Sockdolager (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 began cruising on Raven, a unique wooden 29' powerboat. In 2018 we cruised up to Glacier Bay, Alaska, and back. But in 2024 we had the chance to buy Sockdolager back (we missed her), so we sold Raven. We hope you enjoy reading about our adventures as much as we enjoy having them. (And there will be more.)

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Home Stretch

We’re in Comox, on Vancouver Island. Nice little town, about 150 miles from home. The weather is still more like San Diego than Canada, hot days and clear starry nights with the odd rainy day the exception, but in spite of worries about climate change everyone on the water is saying “What a summer!” The photo above is a typical wall of fog; one minute it's clear and the next you can't see your toes.

Our approximate date for arrival in Port Townsend is September 8, in time for the Wooden Boat Festival. But we’re still not in any hurry, and are stretching out the end of the cruise to make this lovely summer last as long as possible. Winter lasts awhile and you never know what you’ll get with summers in the Northwest—last year was dreary and wet. Let’s catch you up since the last post.

Broughton Islands redux: The rest of our stay in the Broughtons was good and we’d like to go back there.

Besides several lovely anchorages that we had all to ourselves or shared with cruising boats with whom we visited, a big highlight was the Lagoon Cove marina at Minstrel Island. Naturally, we had to stop there since the island is named after Karen’s boat… or something like that. What a place! It has been described as a summer camp for adults. Happy Hour with steamed prawns (free!) and cruiser-supplied hors d’oeuvres on the deck of an “historic” old workshop is a tradition. Then there are the hiking trails up the mountain, the whimsical metal sculptures, the exceptional trading library, the crab cooking shack, and the sheer friendliness. The owners heard that we’d had poor luck catching crabs in our new trap and gave us five or six huge Dungeness crabs, on which we chomped in an elbow-dripping feast with enough left over for crab cakes. The fishing continues to be good, and we’ve been able to catch dinner nearly every time we try. We visited Simoom Sound because of its intriguing shape on the chart, the glowing descriptions in the cruising guide, but mostly because of its lyrical name. But the sound of multiple chain saws and big trees going CRACK! as they fell, and the sight of mountainsides stripped bare of old- and second growth trees, marred the beauty of Simoom Sound.

Photo: another lousy sunset in the Broughtons.

Water comets deluxe: In the smallest hours of a starry night in a splendid little cove near Seabreeze Island, Karen heard a splash, then a light thump on the hull. She came fully awake and went topside to investigate. The water reflected the stars until she realized those weren’t reflections-- dots of light and tiny comets streaked all around the boat as tiny fish fed on phosphorescent plankton. The thump on the hull might have been a large fish or a seal. “You awake? You gotta see this!” We marveled at thousands of streaks and flashes. Karen whirled a mop handle in the water to create a galaxy of phosphorescence, and Jim created his own galaxy of phosphorescence in a way only men can do.

Photo: Da Bidness end of a lingcod.

Johnstone Strait reflux: This time it was smooth and windless—a bit disappointing to Jim, who’d heard its reputation was fierce, but very much a relief to Karen, who’s transited it twice. We encountered the famous Johnstone Strait orca pod, which had stationed six or seven of the nine killer whales we observed in a circle, where they stayed in place at the surface as the youngsters played together. “Killer whales, yippee!” we yelled. We slowed down and altered course away so as not to disturb them, and the biggest one did a quick spyhop to get a look at us. Then it made a noise. A rather unusual noise for a killer whale. A more usual noise for a human. “Did you hear that?” said Karen. “I did,” said Jim, “I never knew whales could fart.” “Me neither,” said Karen. “Maybe it was a Bronx cheer, ya think?”
Whatever it was, it was a loud one.

Octopus’s Garden nyuk nyuks: Instead of going via Dent-Yaculta Rapids we decided to try the Okisollo Channel and visit the Octopus Islands. Cool name! Wouldn’t you want to go to a place named Octopus? Karen sang a slightly off-key version of “Octopus’s Garden” to Jim as they shot through the rapids at near-slack tide. (‘I’d like to be….under the sheets….in an octopus’s garden….with youuu!’) Though the islands were crowded with boats, those suckers were fun. We visited with a cruising boat named ‘Kafka’ after asking them if they were deep thinkers (they are), and rowed ashore to the Cruiser’s Gallery, an old wood shack stuffed with driftwood art and name-board signs made by cruisers. We left our contribution, a tiny driftwood name-board that Karen carved. There is one other cruisers gallery we know of, in the Wallace Islands Marine Park (Canada’s Gulf Islands.) Then we sailed away, through Surge narrows, to Heriot Bay and now through the Strait of Georgia.

Photo: Sockdolager leaves her mark at the Cruiser's Gallery.

Meedle and Bob: Okay, so it’s time we addressed this issue once and for all. Inquiring minds want to know. What is it they ask? “When you’ve been together 24/7 nonstop for ninety-odd days on that tiny little boat, how do you keep from tearing each others’ hair out?” Sockdolager is relieved to report that though it has not been without its moments, both Jim and Karen retain full and healthy heads of hair. Most of the “moments” have revolved around miscommunications. Not everyday miscommunications, mind you, like the time in Johnstone Strait when Karen admired a sturdy ketch designed by the famous marine architect William Garden and said, “What a well-kept Garden ketch!” to which Jim replied, “Do you think they have any tomatoes?” No, not those kinds of miscommunications, we mean another kind. The dreaded gender-based kind.
If you subscribe to the theory of gender stereotyping, you might say that in matters of speech, women have a tendency to be more indirect than men. This can result in a lot of annoying little clarification discussions. For example...
Karen at helm, noticing Jim’s leg is blocking her view of the depth sounder: “In a few minutes I’m going to need to see the depth sounder.” (Translation: I would like you to get this hint because your leg is posing a threat to life and safety.)
Jim: “Okay.” (He doesn’t move his leg.)
Karen, a few seconds later: “It’s getting shallow. I need to see the depth sounder now.”
Jim looks down at his leg. “Why didn’t you just say move yer damn leg?”
Karen: “I dunno, it sounds kind of rude.”

So, in order to satisfy the simultaneous needs to be direct yet not rude, we invented a few acronym-words that are short, sharp and satisfyingly ambiguous. The new word for “Move yer damn leg!” is “MYDL!” Pronounced meedle so it’s not confused with the medication for women only. In the event the recipient does not register the meaning of this command after two utterances, the helmsperson gets to bark (but only once), “MYGDL!”
Here is another: BOB. Posed as a question, answered as a statement.
Jim: “BOB?”
Karen: “BOB.”

Meaning, “Have you turned the battery switch this morning so that both will be charging when we start the engine?”
“Yes, the battery switch is turned to both.”
Batteries on both. BOB. Saves 26 words, which is significant before we’ve had our second cups of coffee.

There are a couple more, but this should not be overdone. “ISTE.” Comes after BOB and means I’m starting the engine. Finally, a favorite of Jim’s: “AO!” Rhymes with Day-oh. Means the anchor is up. Yes, Jim knows it would be more correct to say “AU!” but he doesn’t care because he likes hollering “AAAYYYYY-Oh!” from the foredeck.

Wait, there’s one more needed. It comes at the end of a long day’s run in more crowded waters, where people call dumb stuff to each other over the radio on VHF channel 16 and half the continent can hear it. You can almost hear the Coast Guard groaning.
“Hey, Rita’s Mink. Rita’s Mink, Rita’s Mink. Ya gotcher ears on? This is Passing Wind calling.” (We kid you not, these are real boat names.)

There can only be one response. That acronym is “TODR!” Turn off the damn radio.

We leave Comox tomorrow, headed in the direction of Lasqueti Island. We’ll try to rendezvous with a friend in the San Juans before we get to Port Townsend. What a summer, what a marvelous summer!

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