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.)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Have Boat, Will Sail

Northwest Mantra--Repeat until July: The Sun is not a myth... the Sun is not a myth... Not even the coldest spring on record since the 1950s is going to keep us from getting ready on time, but it has made preparation a bit more challenging. Doing upside-down boat yoga in a cockpit locker, for instance, is more fun in sunshine than sleet. Trying to not poke a ladder through a garage window is much easier when it’s not blowing a gale. Click here for scientific proof that Spring in the Northwest has been “unstable.”

Don’t worry, we’re just practicing our spiffy new medical skills at an Offshore Emergency Medicine course. We highly recommend it (the course, not breaking both right arms.) Photo by Jill Dubler. More info below.

Something about juggling all those lists:
We keep forgetting things. It couldn’t be age causing this, or even keeping track of unfinished work, so it must be the cold. Yep, that’s it. Karen, for example, completely forgot that Jim had made her a nicely shaped piece of wood to fill in a space between exterior wall shingles and the garage door frame, so she laboriously cut little mini-shinglets to fill it in and layered them carefully, then joined their edges to full-sized shingles. Nice corner, the renters will like it. Very fine work there, she thought, until Jim asked, “Geez, aren’t you going to use that piece of wood I made?” Cue sound of extra energy going THUD.

One of our favorite photos, taken last summer by Mae Jong-Bowles of Prince Rupert, Canada as we were entering Port Angeles Harbor from Sooke, BC.

But Jim takes the cake on forgetting, at least this time. He lost his wallet. Actually, he loses it rather creatively nearly every day, plus his car keys and glasses. Eons ago Karen offered him a basket for stashing them the minute he comes in the door, but nooooo... “Where’s the fun in that?” he retorted. Usually we (note the pronoun) find them all after a daily ritual resembling an Easter egg hunt. But one day his wallet seemed lost for good. The signs are always clear: Jim mutters while rifling through stuff and wandering distractedly. After ten minutes of this, Karen asks, “Which one are we looking for today?” Occasionally Jim will call out something like, “If you TRULY cared about me, you would know where I left my wallet/keys/iPhone.” This turned into the best setup he ever gave her. Meanwhile, there was no finding the wallet, and Karen silently began making plans to call credit card companies. She did notice a wallet-shaped bulge in Jim’s jeans pocket earlier, but thought, Nah, couldn’t be, he’s not THAT clueless. But he was. “I found my wallet!” came the triumphant call minutes later. Silence.

Karen: Where was it?

Jim: In my pocket.

Karen: No, seriously, where was it? (She walks over, begins searching his pockets slooooowly.)

Jim: What are you doing? I have to go to work!

Karen: I’m showing you how much I truly care.

Sockdolager under sail. Soon, soon...

Of course, Jim had a good excuse for such forgetfulness: all his brain cell were full, holding an encyclopedic amount of arcane facts needed to pass the test for a General Class Ham license. No room left in there for mundane things like wallets. His study marathon began right after we returned from taking the Offshore Emergency Medicine course. The man’s unstoppable. Karen is still trying to keep all the medical stuff from falling out of her beleaguered brain.

Time to go sailing. The day cannot come soon enough when we’re on the boat and don’t need to take tests or remember where we put keys because we won’t need the dadgum keys. Wallets and glasses will be easy to find because on this boat anything you don’t put away is in plain sight.

More on the Emergency Offshore Medicine course: First we read the 200+ page book to get ready. Then we took an online test and passed. Then we flew to Denver, where we had three nine-hour days of intensive classroom time, which included how to identify if something’s a medical emergency or not, what to do about it, and how to keep something minor from becoming major. We role-played, diagnosed using “big net” systems thinking, and even practiced emergency radio calls. Then there were the labs, hoo boy... we cleaned, irrigated and dressed a horrendous wound in a ham hock, practiced giving shots with real syringes and real drugs except that we shot up a bunch of raw chicken legs and not each other, administered a hematoma block in another unfortunate chicken leg, and smeared fake blood on ourselves before going out to lay in various pained poses in the hotel hallway, which impressed the hotel’s other guests to no end.

This course was taught with panache and humor by Jeff Isaacs and a partnership of MDs who get what it means to go offshore by sailboat. If you are going offshore and beyond the reach of medical assistance or timely medevac, then this is the course for you. It costs about the same as two month’s insurance premiums and buys peace of mind. We’ve connected the Docs with the Northwest Maritime Center in hopes they’ll bring it here, because Denver’s as far west as they’ve taught it so far. You can find out more about it

Ahhh, sunset. Sockdolager at anchor behind Dungeness Spit National Wildlife Refuge, just off the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Photo by Mae Jong-Bowles.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

All that work will be worth it...

A favorite photo from the Northwest Maritime Center's Spring Symposium, taken on the dock in front of Sockdolager after a nice visit aboard with Lin and Larry Pardey, a couple of our sailing heroes... read on for more!

Three months to castoff! Though we’re making more progress toward our goal of departing Port Townsend on July 4th for the open Pacific, it still feels at times like wading through molasses. The other day Jim said, “I should just put something on the list so I can cross it off, like ‘get out of bed.’

But we’re getting close, so close. We can smell the ocean, feel the boat’s swing and sway, sniff the warm breeze in our dreams. Well, not the warm breezes while we’re dreaming, we mean the warm breezes of our dreams… oh never mind. Angled into this mix is the need for a reasonable state of physical fitness, especially at our ages (budding geezerhood.) Jim’s boat yoga (contortions inside small lockers to build and repair stuff) has been keeping him somewhat limber if not bruised, and Karen has begun lifting weights and doing other exercises at the gym. Talk about wading through molasses. But the strenuous workouts are paying off. She attended a “Body Flow” class the other day and learned, while doing the combo Tai Chi-Yoga-Ballet exercises, about the effects of age on one’s general decreptitude. Later that evening, at home…

Karen: Hey guess what. The instructor says that balance isn’t the first thing to go when you get older. It’s the ability to twist.

Jim: Hmmm. Maybe we should download some Chubby Checker tunes to the iPod.

Winter cruise: Just to get outta Dodge, we went for a little cruise on December 30, to Mystery Bay, where we tied to a mooring overnight. Temps were in the 20s and we were the only boat out sailing. It was crisp and lovely, but holy mackerel, the idea of sailing without down vests, hats, gloves and lined boots is going to be an exotic new experience. Imagine flip-flops! Bathing suits! Yeah, baby! Diving in for a swim! Brrrr, never mind, it’s Puget Sound.

On the way out of Mystery Bay the next morning, we tested our new VHF radio with the amazing AIS (automatic identification system) that tells you where other ships are, their names, and which way they’re going. It was clear and sunny. Jim went below and turned it on while Karen steered. The proximity alarm went off immediately… BEEP BEEP BEEP! To small-boat sailors this sound means, “ATTENTION, INSIGNIFICANT OBJECT. A ship is heading your way and will be inside your Official Zone of Scary Events in 3… 2… 1…”

Jim: Do you see any ships?

Karen: No. Does it show a ship in the area?

Jim: Yeah, and it’s heading straight for us.

BEEEEP! BEEEEP! went the alarm.

Karen: I don’t see anything. What’s the name of the ship? We can call them.

Jim: It’s blanked out. No name, but the bearing’s coming straight at us.

BEEEEP! Jim: Ugh. I’m turning off the alarm.

Karen: Hmmm, were it not for that sand bar between us and Port Townsend Bay I might be worried, but there aren’t any ships in si…. OH. MY. GOD. Come up here!

A nuclear submarine’s jet black conning tower slipped into view just over the sandspit that separated us, and moved across it like a needle on a giant panic dial. It was huge, and we were, for once, grateful for sand bars. “Wow,” we said in unison. It figures the first ship contact with our new AIS would be a boomer.

Jim's full of big ideas. This is his idea for fishing in comfort.

Sailing back to Port Townsend, Jim informed Karen of an important discovery he’d made. “I did some extra calculations on the spinnaker pole as I was putting the new ends on,” he said. “There’s a lot of space inside that tube.” Jim had found the pole on Craigslist for a lot less than a new one would cost, and he’d bought new end fittings for it.

“You’re looking at the inside of a spinnaker pole for storage?” Karen asked.

“The pole is 3 inches in diameter,” said Jim. “A can of Pabst Blue Ribbon is two and five-eighths inches in diameter. We could fit 31 cans of PBR inside that pole.”

“Wow. Only you would spend the time to figure that out.”

“It might affect the pole’s performance, huh?”

“It might.”

We also discussed saving more storage space by eliminating all those icky tubes of engine grease and using peanut butter instead, for greasing the engine. This came about after Karen smelled the ubiquitous paste on Jim’s breath. “Too bad engines don’t run on that stuff. You could just butter up the diesel and lick it when you get hungry.” Jim thought this was an excellent idea, and, except for the fact that he prefers the problematic crunchy to the diesel-friendly smooth, he might have considered it.

Nerd News: We passed the test for our ham radio licenses. This means that we can talk long-distance to other hams on ham frequencies, and to ordinary mortals on the Single Sideband radio. Our friend Karen Helmeyer in Hawaii pointed out that we should excel at being hams because we are rather good at hamming it up. To which we respectfully riposte: We shall do a cartoon radio show on the other side of the Equator and call it South Pork. (Just kidding, Fellow Hams, we know that's not allowed.) In early April (whoa, that's now!) we’re off to Denver for an Offshore Emergency Medical course. Denver? Offshore? Hey, we don't make this stuff up, we just do it. And that about does it for school.

Lineup of boats on display at the Spring Symposium. Sockdolager's at the front. This & next 2 photos courtesy of Jan Davis.

Winter’s finally over, and around here that means the wind subsides to thirty, the rain falls at 45 degree angles instead of straight sideways, and everyone’s delirious about teensy little leaf buds and micro-patches of blue sky. It hasn’t been all work and no play, though. We took Sockdolager over to the Northwest maritime Center’s first annual Symposium, where we ‘re told she was one of the stars of the show. If the steady stream of delightful visitors was any indication, we believe it.

This was a gathering of serious sailors and powerboaters to learn and listen and interact in two days of intensive classes. It was great. One of the highlights for us was hosting Lin and Larry Pardey, two of our sailing heroes, aboard for a nice long visit where we talked about boats, cruising, and writing. Karen did her presentation on blogging your voyage, and we enjoyed long conversations with a bunch of interesting people.

Sockdolager at the Northwest Maritime Center.

Fiddly Bits: We’ve been having huge fun with our friend and semi-retired shipwright, Leif Knutsen. Leif, whose own boat is an astonishing assemblage of creative and beautiful boatwork, has been busy on myriad “fiddly bits” for Sockdolager. Wait’ll you see this stuff! Kinesthetically kewl doesn’t begin to describe the brilliant things that have created more space, secured heavy items, and found unique solutions for storage. In another installment we’ll take you on a tour of Leif’s innovative fiddly bits.