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.)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Big Bodacious Voyage

On the Horizon

Happy holidays! Many tides have ebbed and flowed since last summer, and much preparation for the upcoming voyage has been completed. (Much remains, however.) The departure date is set: July 4, 2011, from Port Townsend, Washington to…well… the world!

Photo of Karen & Jim by Yasuo and Michiko Hayama, from Japan. Yasuo sailed his Dana 24 from California to Tokyo (

Yes! We’re going for it! From PT we’ll sail to Neah Bay at the end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, wait for a good forecast, and jump offshore for the passage to San Francisco, about 700 miles south. After a spell there (heads up, SF friends!) we’ll harbor-hop down the coast to southern California, where we’ll await the end of hurricane season. Then it’s down Baja Mexico to explore the Sea of Cortez and get the boat and ourselves ready for the big crossing in March of 2012: 2300 miles to the Marquesas, home of gorgeous mountainous islands, great people, and lots of history. We can hardly wait to ramble through French Polynesia and, before the South Pacific hurricane season starts, book it for New Zealand. (Heads up, EnZed friends!) Once in NZ we’ll take stock—you know, the how-are-we doing, is-this-still-fun stock. If it’s still fun, we’ll keep going. A friend named Kaci Cronkhite (who’s circumnavigated and is the longtime Executive Director of the Wooden Boat Festival) has been spinning yarns to us about the delights of the Indian Ocean. And we do have friends in South Africa…

We’ll keep you posted via this blog as we get internet connections along the way. There is also the new ability to update it from far out at sea anywhere in the world, via our new single sideband radio. Both of us are going to become Hams as well, so talking from just about anywhere in the world will be possible, as soon as we learn how to do that. We may even be able to send coordinates of where we are right to the blog via our solar-powered shortwave radio. HOLY MACKEREL, IS TECHNOLOGY GREAT OR WHAT.

Our boat, Sockdolager, (Sock-DOLL-a-jur) a Pacific Seacraft Dana 24, is, well, only 24 feet long. This would make things rather crowded with all of you aboard, so the best way we can think of to take you along is to blog about the voyage. Which brings up another thing…

We GUARANTEE you won’t get seasick.
While we’ll be able to update the blog at sea from our shortwave radio, we won’t be able to notify YOU with an email, due to the cost and complexity of radio waves compared to internet electrons. We also can’t promise to update anything with any regularity, such as the blog or our position. Which means: don’t worry if you don’t hear from us for weeks at a time. We put a “Follow” widget on this blog to enable followers to get automatic notifications when we post via radio from the briny. Although we know beyond a doubt that each and every one of you is a leader, we recommend that you also try becoming a “Follower.” More on this with how-to instructions at:

Talk back!
We’ve also figured out how to simplify the comments section at the end of each blog post—basically it’s open now to anyone for comment. We got rid of that byzantine registration thingy that previously prevented many of you from commenting. So fire at will, we want to keep in touch!

Good Old Boat and 48 North
Both magazines have published several humor articles by Karen this year. Our blog writings have become the ideas and raw materials for lots of these published pieces. Supposedly, writing for publication is like watching sausage being made. So if you love sausage, this may be your spot.

The man can do anything. And strong? Don't get me started...

Boat Bling
Sockdolager is getting ready for voyaging and is now solar-powered for all things electronic. Her rig, sails, and safety gear are either all new or inspected and good as new. She has a new Cape Horn self-steering vane gear, new dodger, cockpit awning, 175-watt solar panel on a stainless arch, special Odyssey batteries, water-cooled refrigeration, 110-volt inverter, Wi-fi antenna, a new Force 10 cook-stove, a new single sideband (long range) radio transmitter/receiver, GPS, and a new VHF (short range) radio with a cool gizmo that identifies ships by name and gives their coordinates (AIS.) Plus all new boat cushions and a new stereo system with an iPod dock. Karen, also known as the Navigatrix, has a refurbished Tamaya Jupiter sextant in case the electronics crap out.

Jim, also known as His Royal Geekness, has installed everything himself while contorting his body into odd, tiny spaces inside the boat. This practice will be familiar to some of you; it’s called “boat yoga.” Karen has watched him in slack-jawed amazement. There are now enough new antenna thingys on the boat to attract the interest of the CIA. Special note: if anyone ever tries to tell you that installing a single sideband radio (SSB) is easy, HAVE THEM IMMEDIATELY FLOGGED ROUND THE FLEET. Installing the SSB has been so much work that Jim now refers to it as the SOB. There are five good reasons for choosing SOB, er, SSB, over other options such as a satellite phone:

1. We can talk for unlimited amounts of time with any other vessels anywhere in the world, so long as they also have their own SOBs (and as long as our batteries last)
2. We can contact shore stations, including mobile nets, businesses, and emergency services;
3. We can send and receive e-mail from sea (but it’s expensive); and
4. We can receive weather charts by connecting our laptop to the SOB.
5. This radio has all the Ham frequencies, too.

Sunset from our house, which we'll be renting to someone who hopefully loves them.

We’ve thought a lot about this. Some people have become so reliant on their electronics as a crutch that their voyages have been negatively affected, even aborted, when they couldn’t stay in touch with shore. We prefer to view having these electronics aboard as a convenience rather than a necessity. Cutting the umbilical with shore is important if you are going to truly go voyaging; but the ability to be in touch when needed is awfully nice. If we let electronics impact the quality of our voyage, or the connections we should feel from navigating by sun and stars, or the self-reliance of a fully-found little boat on a big ocean, then shame on us.

Since the boat will be our cruising home for the foreseeable future, she should be as safe, comfortable and convenient as possible. We’re not camping out; this will be a matter of taking our little home with us, like a turtle takes its shell, so that we can be at home anywhere in the world. Different philosophy there, but it has served us well in justifying going broke!

Spring Sailing Symposium in Port Townsend March 18-20, 2011
Last Sunday morning Karen’s phone rang. We’d say it was early but it wasn’t; we were sleeping late. She leaped out of bed, mumbled hello. It was Lin and Larry Pardey, calling from New Zealand! Karen's eyelids went from half mast to Defcon 4. The sailing world’s most well-known couple, who are among the star attractions at the upcoming sailing symposium in the Northwest Maritime Center here in PT, were responding in person to questions Karen had asked them via email. The conversation lasted an enjoyable half hour. Want to know what we talked about? Sign up for the symposium, ( because Karen's presenting, too! In addition, we’ll bring Sockdolager to the docks at Point Hudson, and she’ll be open to tours for registered participants. Karen also interviewed Janna Cawrse Esary, author of The Motion of the Ocean, Gary (Cap’n Fatty) Goodlander, author of Red Sea Run, aboard Wild Card (currently in Turkey,) and Andrew Revkin, former Science Editor of the New York Times, blogger at DotEarth and a sailor who’s crossed the Indian Ocean and Red Sea.
Karen’s presentation is called “Hello World! Ten Reasons to Blog Your Voyage (but not every day)”

Postscript: A Hole in the Heart
This one’s difficult. At our last writing, Jack, our beloved little sea-doglet, was still with us. He died in August, a few days after we returned from the mini-voyage to Canada’s west coast. Congestive heart failure finally claimed him in the back yard early one misty morning, as we cradled him and told him we loved him and would carry him forever in our hearts. We carried him down to the boat and sewed a little shroud for him, made of a bright red beach towel with an anchor jauntily embroidered on it. We weighted it with a round rock from our garden and sailed him out to the mouth of Admiralty Inlet, to a place that’s 650 feet deep, beyond the reach of fisherfolk. We drifted in the mist, read some poems, squeaked his favorite toys, cried, and slipped him into the waves as a pair of tiny harbor porpoises circled the boat. It’s hard to write any more about the little bugger except that we miss him.

We’ll post again as the time nears and there is news.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Life in the Slow Lane

It’s 2:30 in the morning, we’re sound asleep after another full day of sailing in the foggy Strait of Juan de Fuca. Karen hears a fog horn from a ship—one of those very low, long deep fog horns that means a big ship. Uh-oh. You know how it is when you’re half awake but you don’t want to wake all the way up because you’re having such a good sleep? That’s how it was. Hoping that it’s no big deal because we’re anchored safely, (we are, right?) she dozes off again. But then, BOOOOOOOOOOOOOP! Good grief, that ship is close! Both Karen and Jim come wide awake. WHOA! Where are we? Home in bed, that’s where. With the windows wide open to let in the cool night breeze. The sound of fog horns from ships groping their way through the Strait of Juan de Fuca is drifting across the still night air, all the way up the hill

to our house. Whew. We laugh. Back in Port Townsend from the west coast of Vancouver Island after a terrific cruise, we’re happy to be home, and planning the next one. This is the entire route.

Jim sails us to anchor through the narrow entrance at Dodger Channel.

Everyday Life on a Boat
What’s it like to live on a small sailboat? Reading this blog may give you an idea, but there’s more than can be described. The motion, for example—how can the peace or the lovely rock-you-to-sleep motion of a good boat that’s well-anchored be adequately described? Or the underway motion of a lively following sea, when the boat surfs down the front of a wave, sails billowing, and makes you whoop with joy? Or the ominous wake of a large ship you can’t see in the fog that tosses you in warning? How about the endless pitch, yaw and roll of big seas that gets you queasily wishing they’d calm down? There’s an endless variety of motion. Also sounds, smells, different kinds of light and darkness. Perhaps that flick of motion seen from the corner of your eye is a bird, maybe even one you know the name and call of without having to look. When you sail, you are a pure creature of the moment, reacting to wind and wave, sensory input, always scanning the horizon for changes in the weather, which rules your life. And, like a good pilot, you are always looking, when sailing along the coast, for good alternate “landing places” in case you can’t reach your intended destination. Life on a sailboat is about motion.

There is fear, too, such as when a squall hits and the wind shifts and suddenly you’re on a lee shore and it’s chaos and noise, and then you methodically work to get the boat under control, get back on course, make rational decisions on how you’ll handle the challenge. This tests how well you’ve prepared. Life on a sailboat is about extensive preparation, practice, proper equipment, and back-up plans.

Pipestem Inlet view

It’s hard to describe how it feels to take your little home with you everywhere you go. You’re at home on the water, anywhere. The boat is stocked with everything needed for extended periods away, wherever you decide “away” might be. Life on a sailboat is about self-sufficiency.

Guiding the boat into another inlet.

Fishing in Pacific swells.

Life on a sailboat is also about stillness. When you chill out after a hard sail, you know you’ve earned it and there isn’t a single brain cell nagging that you shouldn’t relax.

Nothing beats a glass of wine with friends, toasting the sunset in a wilderness anchorage off the beaten path while the surf crashes outside your cove. Sailing is what you make it. The thing about cruising under sail is the wholeness of it. Everything you do seems to have a sense of full involvement with no holding back. It’s why sailors sleep so well.

The juxtaposition of these photos, of Karen cleaning the engine and Jim snoozing after a good afternoon of fishing, followed by the photo of Jack the seadog leaping into Karen’s spot the moment she gets up (he was evicted shortly afterwards) is purely unintentional. Really. Karen did plenty of snoozin’, Jim did plenty of work, and Jack did plenty of barking.

Livin’ LaVida Lingcod
Just in case anyone thinks living on a small sailboat is all can openers and flung spray and hardtack for dinner, let us disabuse you of that notion right now. In fact, if you’re the slightest bit hungry, stop reading and go eat something.

The finest visual all summer, from a civilized dining perspective, was Jim coming back in the dinghy grinning, after 3 or 4 hours of fishing, and hollering “I HOPE YOU’RE HUNGRY!” He’d hold up his fish and Karen would do a little jig in the cockpit. We’ve caught rockfish, snapper, lingcod, salmon,

oysters (they’re slow), Dungeness and rock crabs, and have been given prawns and halibut. We have fed ourselves for much of the summer on fresh wild seafood. We alternate cooking “duties” every other night, and have developed some rather high culinary standards due to the fact that we both enjoy making stuff up, especially when we’ve caught a big fish and it lasts for four meals. Jim rejoices when we’ve “eaten down” all the fillets in the fridge. The expression on his face then is all “OH BOY OH BOY! I GET TO FISH AGAIN!”

Jim's 26-inch salmon.

Our brand new Isotherm refrigerator is all or nothing—either you turn it way down and freeze everything, or you live with a deadline for eating the fish you catch. While cleaning one day’s catch, Jim wished for hermetically sealed fish fillets. Karen said, “You mean, like one of those seal-a-meal gizmos?”

“No,” Jim said, “I mean sealed by the Hermetites.”

“Huh? You mean hermits? Like, lonely guys with nothing better to do?” asked Karen.

“No,” Jim said, “I mean the Hermetites.”

“Ah, of course. And who were they?”

“They sealed,” replied Jim.

“Why?” asked Karen.

“Because they didn’t have refrigeration back then,” said Jim. But Karen knows what’s coming next. Better eat up the veggies because we’re turning the fridge down to arctic.

Following the timeless tradition taught to us by our Canadian friends Marty and Mae, Jim kisses his first salmon.

We’ve been shocked and slightly thrilled to see the price of seafood in markets and restaurants: Half a Dungeness crab with garlic butter, $26. A whole crab, $38. A whole salmon in the grocery store, $37. Six shucked oysters, $7. Well, shucks yourself, it was worth the purchase of all that equipment and the fishing license, never mind the stories we get to tell.

Here is a sampling of Le Menu Sockdolager:

Chinook salmon poached over a cassoulet of thinly sliced potatoes, onions, apples and green peppers smothered in Bernaise sauce. (Karen is not sure what a cassoulet is, but it sounded good.)

Blackened lingcod with a crust of spices.

Prawn Pad Thai.

Sauteed rockfish with almonds and wild sea-asparagus.

Salmon seared in a quarter-ton of garlic and New Zealand butter.

Fish & chips (lingcod) in beer batter.

Chesapeake Bay-style crab cakes.

Steamed Dungeness and rock crab, drawn butter, fresh green beans; and for a change from seafood, Jim’s Meat Loaf. It’s killer. We had a meatloaf cook-off last winter to see who made the best recipe. To Karen’s everlasting shock, Jim won.

Karen marvels at Jim's Tower of Tasty Tostada

Jack, who appears to be feeling better after his cardiac episode, found a three-dog echo in a tiny cove near Julia Passage. A three-dog echo is when one bark echoes three times, which can puff a little dog’s already big ego up. Enough to assume that any wolves in the area know there’s one baaaaad bunch down there on that little green boat.


Enough Food, Let’s Talk About the Weather
In the last post we mentioned the winds have been “active.” Daily gale warnings (winds of 35 knots) have continued all month, and we can remember only one or two days without one. It seems no matter what the weather does, we have a gale. Cold front? We got gale. Weakening low? Gale. Ridge of high pressure? Gale. A dip in the Dow Jones Industrial Average? Gale. We suspect what’s really happened is the entire Environment Canada staff is on holiday at the beach in Tofino and they don’t want crowds bothering them, so each day the little recording is appended to the forecast NO MATTER WHAT THE WEATHER IS DOING, and you hear the cheerful robot say: “…as a result, strong to gale force winds will develop over the entire west coast of Vancouver Island…”

But the sunsets and moonrises have been spectacular.

Moonrise and a cozy cabin

Errant Assumption #1: Whenever you assume that the big bay you’re anchored in so peacefully will remain peaceful, remember this sight--a football field-sized lumber barge that anchored close to us at 5:30 one morning in Ucluelet Inlet. We were awakened by men shouting, as the barge began to swing toward us, “HEY! Are we gonna miss that little sailboat?” Followed by a guy running the length of the barge, peering at us and yelling, “Yeah… I THINK so.” We moved.

A Capital Ship for an Ocean Trip
Reluctantly departing Barkley Sound one morning, we headed out into lumpy Pacific swells and a southeast headwind. Headwind? Whaaa? The weather said west, a tailwind! With K disparaging the laughing Weather Gods as a bunch of sick losers, we motored for awhile, until a zephyr from the west filled in and said we could sail, which we did. Ahhhh. Sailing is best. The zephyr grew and grew, until by day’s end, when we were entering a big square open bay at the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca called Port San Juan, it was blowing fog at 35 knots. You read that right. Blowing fog. 35 knots. Fog around here doesn’t sit still and behave nicely. It’s not your basic well-behaved East Coast summer fog. This is industrial strength airborne mashed potatoes that blows your hair flat. It comes in like a wall. You can see it coming in advance, so there’s plenty of time to build a right proper case of denial. Oh no, that’ll never get THIS far, you say, and when you look to windward again there it is, hovering like a persistent used car salesman, and you know you can’t avoid buying this turkey.

At the end of a long day, sailing fast and dead downwind in 35 knots into a foggy bay whose shores are obscured, except for the sight of a beach full of combers at the far end, is a good test of nerves. Options were to trust the cruising guide, which promised shelter, or head out again into gathering darkness for another 40 howling miles. We decided to check it out. Only if no safe anchorage could be found would we head back out. The aptly-named Thrasher Cove on the bay’s west side was filled with breaking waves, so we sailed across the bay to a tiny cleft in the rocks optimistically named Port Renfrew, and hoped it wasn’t too full of the fishing boats that were all passing us in their haste to get into harbor. It nearly was too full, but between a fishing/research boat and a net tender we managed to anchor in a sliver of smooth water, with waves breaking on the rocks less than three boat lengths to port and wind-lashed seas three foggy boat lengths to starboard. Oh well, who doesn’t need more practice in precision anchoring anyway.

This was the perfect time to try a new technique we’d read about in an excellent older book by Earl Heinz, called The Complete Book of Anchoring and Mooring. Non-sailors skip this part. The technique is called a “hammerlock.” Basically, all it involves is this: once your main anchor’s set and the boat’s in position for the heavy winds but you don’t have room to swing when they go light, you just drop another anchor, preferably heavy, on a short rode off the bow. When the wind dies down, the extra anchor will keep the boat from moving around, but if it does drag you can likely hear it rumbling. From a marginal anchorage like this you’re probably going to move anyway.

Sockdolager's GPS track in Barkley Sound

Weather Gods to Bureaucracy Gods… Over to You
I guess we gave the Weather Gods enough entertainment for awhile, because the next day was spectacular. A sweet little westerly breeze in the morning, some fog but still a couple miles of visibility, and warm sunshine. We tried out a downwind arrangement of sails—staysail boomed out on one side and genoa on the other. Although we didn’t try booming out the genoa using the end of the main boom, we figured out how it might be done. Sockdolager flew along all day, perfection in a 35-mile sleigh ride to Sooke. We realized some of the adjustments that’ll be needed in order to have a reliable trade-wind rig. Of course by day’s end the wind built to 25 or 30, and on a reefed genoa alone we were surfing down some surprisingly large breaking seas. This little 24-foot boat with its 21-foot waterline surfed steadily at 7-8 knots. Now for the really exciting part.

The VHF radio crackled into life. It was the US Coast Guard, cheerfully announcing live fire exercises by the Canadian Navy in a patch of water called “Whiskey Hotel.”

“Did they say live fire? As in real bombs?” Karen asked. Jim thought that’s what he heard, so we checked the chart. Although there is no Whiskey Hotel named on the chart, an ominously placed magenta line near our position said DANGER AREA.

“I think we may be in the live fire area,” said Jim.

“Great,” said Karen. “You check into the Whiskey Hotel and they shoot you.” Right about then a helicopter flew by. We heard a radio call for “Helo Stinger 32.” You’ve gotta love the names these people give their fighting machines. But seeing one from a distance greater than half a mile would have been better, from an appreciation standpoint.

Jim called the Coast Guard, who gave us the coordinates for Area Whiskey Hotel. For whatever reason, they wanted us to plot the coordinates and find out for ourselves rather than take our position over the air and tell us yeah, you’re in the zone, and you’re toast. With all the rolling and tossing of the boat, it took Jim awhile to plot those four coordinates while the Coast Guard cheerfully stood by. Sure enough, we were in it.

The options were to turn back, which in 30 knots of wind was not going to happen easily, or to go out to the shipping lanes to joust with tankers, or (our preference) to sneak along the shore and hope for the best. After consulting with the Coast Guard, who consulted with the Canadian Navy, who took awhile to get an answer back to the Coast Guard, which deeply impressed us into thinking that perhaps we were creating an international situation, the Coast Guard radioed back, “The Canadian Navy says you should leave the area.”

Jim asked if sneaking along close to shore was a possibility, but the radio chose that exact moment to begin crapping out, so who knows what the Coast Guard heard from us other than we wanted to sneak. After several tries, at which point we were deep into live fire territory, Jim was able to make his request understood. We angled north and did the shore sneak, with an eye on the sky for strafing runs. “They wouldn’t bomb a yacht, right?” we asked each other. But several other boats blundered right through the middle, including a mega-yacht towing a mini-yacht, which would have made a terrific target. They emerged oblivious and unscathed out the other side, so maybe we were just being extra cautious by calling the Coast Guard. It was fun, though, in a Dr. Strangelove kind of way, being given orders from the Canadian Navy via the US Coast Guard. Later the same day the Coast Guard announced demolitions exercises in Area Whiskey Quebec, which was, thankfully, forty miles ahead.

Karen’s cousins Bob and Carole Brelsford from Florida drove their motor home, which they call “The Kramden” because Bob loves old Jackie Gleason reruns, all the way to Port Townsend to visit us, and after learning we were still in Canada they came all the way to Sooke. Here we are after a jolly brunch at Mom’s Café.

Later on, we discovered Errant Assumption #2: You can’t get sunburned in the fog. Here’s Jim demonstrating the Canadian technique for sunbathing in fog while covering his left ear with a hat to keep it from being sunburned.

They followed us home, can we keep them?

You might remember a post last year (August 15, 2009) when we talked about meeting up with an energetic pair of Canadians aboard a 30’ sloop named, aptly, Wild Abandon. We were way up in the wilds of the “Outside Passage,” where almost nobody goes. Marty and Mae Bowles, who hail from Prince Rupert, became fast friends amidst some rather comic adventuring, which we’ve since augmented with video footage, so go back and see 4 new videos added to that August 2009 post, because it’s hard to believe we escaped with our lives. Anyway, we had a reunion this week in Port Angeles (Washington side) after crossing the Strait and its shipping lanes in fog. Once again, Seattle Vessel Traffic Service was invaluable in telling us where the ships were and they us. While entering busy Port Angeles harbor, we used our sense of smell to tell us when we were dead downwind of an anchored ship (it stinks like burning coal) and once in awhile a huge bow would loom out of the murk, and we’d go around it. Truly a Scylla and Chaybdis odyssey for the Northwest.

Sockdolager and Wild Abandon at the docks at Port Angeles

Mainlining Jello Shooters at the local pub with Marty & Mae. The table behind us thought we needed them after we admired theirs, and bought us a round.

Four fast friends

We wanted to keep going, so next
morning we 2 boats (sans radar) convoyed carefully through dense fog, to the amazement of some marina residents who politely called us “bold.”

A tanker in fog. Fortunately, this one was at anchor.

We followed the depth contour near shallows just off the shore, away from where ships could go. By afternoon we were sailing the length of New Dungeness Spit (and national wildlife refuge) in decent visibility, including a spinnaker run on Sockdolager. We filmed each other zooming back and forth.

Sockdolager with her green spinnaker. Photo by Mae Jong-Bowles

A windy night was spent anchored together behind the New Dungeness Spit (at 9 miles, the longest sand spit in the world.)

Sockdolager and Wild Abandon at anchor inside New Dungeness Spit. Photo by Mae Jong-Bowles

Here Karen and Jim encountered Errant Assumption #3. When you’re anchored in only 20 feet of water with a heavy plow anchor, 30 feet of chain and 150 feet of rode, you will never drag anchor. Not. As we watched in disbelief, Sockdolager dragged downwind for a couple hundred yards in the wide open bay. The only other time that’s happened to Karen was in New Zealand, when a big shell lodged itself on the point of the anchor, which prevented it from digging in. Figuring that’s what was happening now, we pulled it in and found no shell (it could have dropped off) but a massive tangle of kelp and soft oozy smelly mud. So, if your boat’s sideways to the wind and the scenery is going by, even though you have half a mile of ground tackle out there, you’re probably dragging.

We swapped crew! Mae went to Sockdolager and Jim went to Wild Abandon.

Mae steers Sockdolager like a pro.

Sailing into Port Townsend the next day was blissful. Just as last year, we were spotted by friends within minutes of entering harbor as we sailed through the anchorage. Marty and Mae joined us at the house to celebrate Marty’s birthday. We were so noisy that our neighbor called to find out if we were burglars.

Wild Abandon does a victory lap along the Port Townsend waterfront

Marty gets a double noogie on his birthday

Errant Assumption #5: That one must always let sleeping dogs lie. Well, one could, when the dog pretends to be out like a light while you’re trying to make up the bed in the V-berth. Jack pretended to be asleep even when we made up the berth on top of him. Good for a laugh, the little cutie. We’re glad to still have our little Jackalope with us.

Big Plans Next Year
This was a short cruise in comparison to last year, and especially in comparison to next year’s plans. But it was sweet, and a good shakedown for the improvements we’ve made to the boat. We’ll spend the rest of the summer in the Puget Sound environs, and in the fall will begin our list of projects to get ready for next year. Our 2011 plans are to rent out our PT cottage and sail to Mexico and then, hopefully, to the Marquesas, French Polynesia, Vanuatu and New Zealand. From there we will figure things out. But the philosophy will be to have fun and an adventure of a lifetime. Neither of us are spring chickens and we’ve worked all our lives for this. As our Canadian friends say, why not go for it, eh?

Sockdolager coming into harbor. Photo by Mae Jong-Bowles

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tales From the Wild Side

We’re still on the west coast of Vancouver Island, still enjoying the hundreds of islands, islets and coves in Barkley Sound, still catching and eating fish and crabs, and still having fun. Jack the sea doglet is still with us. His floppy little heart is still beating out a little reggae rhythm as he rearranges the benthic fauna from the dinghy and occasionally falls in, to hoots of laughter all around. Winds have been, shall we say, “active” with gale warnings nearly every day for 35-plus knots from the west and northwest, which were the directions we had intended to sail further, but with Jack’s heart problems and our original goal of forgetting what day it is anyway, WHO CARES! IT’S SUMMER! The weather’s great! More on all that later. It’s time for a few tall tales we thought you might enjoy.

Sockdolager at anchor in Joe's Bay, Barkley Sound.

Another first: Sockdolager spent two nights anchored in a tree. Of course, we didn't know this until we brought the tree up from the bottom--a nice 15-foot cedar with lots of branches.

Reckless Raptors and Hysterical Crows: This one was told to us by new cruising friends Rick and Paige while we were enjoying a 4th of July barbecue with them aboard a 45-foot trawler called Reel Sketchy, owed by new friends Dave and Chris, who fish and paint—extremely well, we might add. Whew, long sentence. Rick loves to watch eagles, of which there are so many in these waters that when their high-pitched chattering wakes you up in the morning you almost get grouchy until you realize, HEY! An eagle just woke me up! Anyway, Rick noticed a pair carrying sticks to an existing nest to rebuild it (eagles commonly reuse and improve old nests) and he watched them for awhile.

Here’s where it gets downright weird. I have never heard of this, so you raptor biologist friends out there please weigh in with a comment. Rick said he watched these eagles land on dead spruce branches high up in the tree, of a size that could hold their weight if they landed on the thick part near the tree trunk. (Eagles are not lightweights.) They then edged out and out along the branch until it bent down, then kept edging out until the branch broke. Of course, this initiated a fall. Still holding the broken branch in their talons, they’d fall about 10-15 feet until they could get airborne, and fly the branch to the nest. A neat trick. Eagles generally can’t get airborne from the ground with something that heavy, so they’ve evidently learned to use altitude and standing deadwood.

Not long after that we heard a scream in the woods. It sounded like someone at a party who’s over their limit and who has just seen a rodent. Three crows came booking out of the woods—who could blame them. Then, the culprit, possibly the Mick Jagger of the corvid world, came out and sat on a branch over the beach, issuing that hysterical party scream and enjoying every minute of it. We never knew crows could make noise like that. Evidently, neither did the other crows., Jim enjoys swinging off the rope into a natural pool between waterfalls at Lucky Creek. A spectacular place.

Karen enjoys the peace and quiet of a rocky beach.

Catch of the Day: Rockfish. Delicious!

New technique for untangling twisted anchor rodes: push the boat around in a circle!

Scat, But Not for Jazz Singers: Karen rowed Jack ashore for his constitutional on one of the islands in the Broken Group (middle of Barkley Sound). Shore was rocky, so we clambered a bit, and both noticed this absolutely terrible smell. Curiously, Jack, who loves absolutely terrible smells, did not want to go near this one, but Karen did. Not that she loves ATS, but this was very unusual. It turned out to be a large, uh, well, bowel movement. She first thought it was from a bear. But bear scat does not look or smell like that (She has seen lots of them and knows what they look like.) It was shaped more like dog, but it was huge and composed of mostly small scraps of shells. Domestic dogs would not survive with that much shell in their system. Coyote, maybe? Nah, it would have been a gigantic coyote, and there aren’t any coyotes out here. Besides, coyote scat doesn’t smell like that either, so what could it… Oh. My. God. It’s a wolf. This scat is FRESH. We’re on a verrry small island. Shhhh, Jack. Let’s find the dinghy reeeeeeal quiet-like and row back to the boat. Jack was happy to go. Dogs must know stuff like this. Humans must look so dumb sometimes. Later, near Pipestem Inlet, we heard a wolf howl. The next morning, Karen was awakened early by the sound of a pod of orca whales exhaling.

Wild Wouwer Island's beaches are beautiful and deserted.

Bushwhacking through Wouwer Island's forest was challenging.

A sea lion suns itself on rocks.

A Wouwer Island underwater kelp forest can trap logs. Kelp can stop your engine, and you have to watch for it.

Huge winter storms litter the beaches with logs. Some have fallen off ships and some have fallen naturally. Many logs are three or four feet thick.

We Kid You Not: When the wind calmed down for a couple of days, we went back to anchor in a tiny, one-boat cove on Wouwer Island, because it is so wild right there on the edge of the Pacific. We wanted to hear surf and the honks and barks of sea lions, and the wash of waves in and out of the kelpy rocks. Jim took the dinghy around the Pacific side to see if he could catch a fish (he did), and Karen stayed aboard working on a new canvas pocket organizer for the boat. For some unknown reason she decided to fetch the new bright red Haida Nation flag, from last summer’s sail to the Queen Charlotte Islands, and add it to the column of flags flying from the starboard spreader. She hoisted them. The three flags (Canada’s maple leaf, the colorful British Columbia province flag, and the one from Haida Gwaii) made a nice splash of color. Not five minutes later a lone kayaker came paddling into the lagoon. Karen noticed, in this order: Kayak. Wooden kayak, hand-made. Native man wearing straw hat, a little like a Haida hat. Northwest native art stenciled on the kayak. Now, seriously folks. Figure the odds here. Trying to keep her jaw from dropping, Karen called out, “Nice kayak!” The kayaker responded with “Nice boat! Is this Effingham Bay?” “No,” Karen replied and pointed, “Effingham’s two miles that way.”

“Man, I’m lost!” said the kayaker. “I forgot to bring my compass!” A nice conversation ensued, in which Karen gave directions to this slightly lost, lone native kayaker wearing a Haida-like hat who showed up five minutes after Karen raised the Haida flag. We kid you not.

While we were at Wouwer, we noticed a funny thing. The surf sounded a lot like highway traffic. Have you ever lived near a highway and pretended, just to soothe your nerves, that the sound of the traffic was surf or river rapids? And then, when it’s really surf you hear, your brain says dang it, we anchored too near a highway. Obviously, we have not been out long enough.

Jim's big lingcod, at least ten pounds. Yum!

Closer look at Jim's big lingcod. It measured 34 inches.

Another Way to Douse a Spinnaker: After a wonderful day in which we tested our skills by sailing through a tricky passage, losing the wind and getting swept again through it backwards, and finally sailing through it a third time, we decided to go to Effingham Bay again because we didn’t want to take down the spinnaker. Really. Sometimes you choose an anchorage by the mere fact of it being in a more distant place where you don’t have to take down your sails just yet because you’re having too much fun. So off we went on a perfect reach, under tanbark mainsail and emerald green spinnaker, both made locally by Hasse Sailmakers in Port Townsend. A small “Chunk!” noise forward was noticed and commented on by both of us, but we were close to the entrance so we kept sailing. We were busily planning how we would approach the anchoring spot behind a little island, where we intended to sail in with everything up, quickly snuff the spinnaker, and anchor under sail again (one of our favorite things to do.) About the time we were entering the harbor and getting ready to snuff the spinnaker, BANG! Suddenly the entire spinnaker was in the water next to the boat, which was going at a pretty good clip. Turns out the shackle opened all by itself, and of course, the halyard, in the phraseology of Brion Toss, was “sky’d.” It was no big deal to gather in the sail and keep going, because hey, this is a 24 foot boat and it’s not that big a sail. Whew and hooray for that. Karen once had this happen on a 100 foot boat with a 6000 square foot spinnaker, and that was an entirely different matter. No harm was done on Sockdolager or to the sail, and we learned two lessons: snap shackles are unreliable and can open under load, and always check noises that are different. Immediately.

Sockdolager's "poor man's anemometer" consists of a set of three flags of different weight cloth that will fly only when the amount of wind the number on the flag indicates is present. Ours are for 6, 12 and 18 mph. Jim found them in use on golf courses, and they work on boats, too.

A dog's-eye view of a darned good beach. (Stopper Islands.)

How to Have an Anchorage All to Yourself: The day after we learned the new way to douse the spinnaker, we were preparing to leave Effingham Bay under sail. While we were both on deck, a very large, probably 60 or 70 foot, sport fishing yacht came majestically (read: big wake) into the bay towing a smaller sportfishing “mini-yacht” that was larger than Sockdolager. The foredeck of this yacht, which shall remain nameless except for the fact that its name rhymes with a rude word for a body part, was packed with TWO kayaks and TWO jet skis, above which TWO large radar units whirled importantly. There wasn’t an ounce of fog for fifty miles. This is one of those times when every mind in the anchorage is whirling, too---oh please, not next to me! Anyway, the powerboat made its spectacular entrance and paused in the middle of the bay, about a hundred feet from us. The captain descended from the tall wheelhouse tower for what we thought would be a discussion with the crew on anchoring. Nope. He peed over the side. In our direction. We thought of using the corresponding John Cleese line from the castle scene in Monty Python’s Holy Grail, but refrained, mostly due to speechlessness.

Then the Large Important Yacht lumbered around the anchorage looking for a place to drop a small piece of metal on its bow, which resembled a miniature anchor. By now the praying was almost audible throughout the bay. The next thing we heard was a loud DROP IT! from a PA system. It echoed Godlike across the water. Jack, who was chewing a snack, dropped it. The tiny little anchor thingy on the bow plunged into the water (50 feet deep) and the crew let out about 30 feet of chain. IS IT ON THE BOTTOM? boomed Captain God from his tower. The crew shrugged. The boat went into reverse. Further announcements included, IS IT DRAGGING? Nods. LET OUT ANOTHER 50 FEET. Suddenly, still reversing through the anchorage at four knots, Captain God said, “CHICKEN?” which puzzled us. Hey! Who ya callin’ a chicken, you jerk, we thought. Then we realized he meant “Sticking?” (Is the anchor sticking.) He blamed the bottom for being too muddy, but before the jet skis could be lowered we crammed on all sail to get the heck out of there. We heard him announce LET OUT 300 FEET OF CHAIN which created quite a stir among the boats behind him.

Another lousy sunset in Barkley Sound.

A Cataract Cove sunset goes good with a glass of wine.

About the Dana 24: If you’d like to see a couple of web pages about Pacific Seacraft Dana 24, go here: and here: The first, by a Dana owner who sailed across the Atlantic and who has also heavily customized his Dana, is a well-written and thorough review. It will give you an idea on how rugged but comfortable these amazing little boats are. The other page is shorter and has general information.

We'll be home around the end of the month. Looking forward to the Pacific Seacraft national rendezvous in Port Townsend the first weekend in August!