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, 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!