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.)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Chasing the Sun (and Wind)

After all these years, I've realized something about sailing that's very obvious, but at a far deeper level: you spend an awful lot of time waiting for wind. Back on Puget Sound where diesel was sold at every corner marina, it was not as noticeable a dilemma when the wind failed (as it often does) because you could get there just as fast--sometimes faster--with the turn of a key. Vroom, the diesel rumbles to life, dissolving any pretensions that you really, truly wanted to sail the whole way. The choice is whether to disturb the peace for convenience's sake, or to sit tight and wait for wind. If we were in Puget Sound in a calm, it's likely we'd start the engine, especially if no wind was in the forecast. But we've read in multiple accounts that in the Tuamotus, diesel is unavailable. We are now becalmed and have been for several hours, drifting at one knot on the current. So the choice is: do we want to wait for wind, in hopes the calm's short-lived (the wait possibly being measured in days), or go for it and use our precious diesel?

News flash: As I write this, Jim is attempting to PURCHASE some wind. He's dropping seven Polynesian francs overboard. He also wants to see how fast they sink. The trick with this method is to not buy too much wind. Uh-oh. He just came back down, saying, "These cheap coins actually float a little, and I can't tell how fast they're sinking before we drift away from them. I need a heavier coin." He just dropped a 100 franc coin into the drink. That's a whole dollar, fer cryin' out loud. Heaven help us, we may have bought a gale.

A mega-sailing yacht passed us two evenings ago, just before sunset. We were enjoying a nice reach of 4 to 5 knots. The mega-yacht was motoring downwind with just a staysail up, doing 11 knots. There was a perfectly usable breeze blowing. Just to say hello, I picked up the VHF radio mic and called the mega-yacht, which looked at least a hundred feet long and had a very tall and empty mast. At sea, mariners are as equals, and big ships talk to tiny sailboats. The voice answering sounded very formal but friendly, and had a Scottish accent. I said, "We're watching your speed and envying you for that."

"We carry and use a lot of diesel," he admitted, but we go around the world on the owner's behalf, chasing the sun." They were going to Fakarava Atoll, too, then Tahiti. He said, "We'll be there tomorrow around noon, and will look for your arrival. What's your ETA?" (estimated time of arrival.)

"Oh, maybe four days," I said. "We carry 20 gallons of diesel and have a 21-foot waterline."

"Wow, then you must do a lot of sailing," he said.

"Indeed we do."

We're still becalmed. Who knows what ETA we'll have? We'll get there when we get there. But it's 90 degrees inside the cabin, and getting our 21st Century selves moving via iron genoa and its artificial breeze while enjoying a cool drink sounds pretty darned fine compared to roasting under the noonday sun, listening to slatting sails, and going nowhere. So why must we always be moving? That old journey-as-destination question again, and still no answers.

We just had a swim call. It's one of the bennies of a calm day at sea.

Patience is part of the bargain in sailing a small boat long distances. We're just as impatient as the next person, but every time we get becalmed we remind ourselves that we programmed it this way, sailing and living on a small boat with limitations that force us to use the wind. We can't have the motoring range of a 40-footer unless we went to extremes of fuel tankage, and then we'd have to give up other heavy items, like food or water. No thanks. We don't need to chase the sun, nor could we if we wanted to. The sun finds us. Now, about those cold drinks... we've got those!

Sent via Ham radio


  1. Karen and Jim
    It is very nice to have been watching you journey. Truly amazing technology, especially when pony express was not that many years ago.
    All is well this way. I appear to have a handle on my health issues and have lost ~45 pounds. Had to pot a new hole in my 40 year old belt. Joan and I will be leaving for a month trip up the AlCan and back on the AK ferry, from Skagway. Gordon and his main squeeze, Karen will be house sitting and Cat feeding. We are very fortunate to have reliable sitters for such a long time.
    I have just reread the "Fiddly Bit" section and it is always nice to see at least the majority of my work standing the test of time. However, IMO, it looks like the best thin I gave you is the ability to think outside the box and basic tools to achieve results. Not that you did not have abilities to build upon. I see lots of "harbor days" of your own creations splattered around. Even today at my advanced age I still am impressed with the versatility of a few good knots, some decent line and a few wedges. The very fist thing that man needed to master was the ability to tie a knot and make strong line. Take one log and go to sea and you are asking for trouble. Tie two together, NOW you have something! Fair winds & best wishes from the north west quadrant of the Western hemisphere, Leif

  2. Leif, hardly a day goes by when we don't think of you and your wonderful Fiddly Bits, which enhance life on a 24-foot boat immensely. And there are more to come! Your essence-of-simplicity technology, the concept of using wedges and bits of line when appropriate instead of fasteners, and of course the revolutionary idea of thinking of not one, but THREE solutions to a problem before tackling it, are your legacy to us.

    Congrats on regaining your robust health!

  3. Ah, Fakarava! Such great memories. I love following your voyage, you two. Thanks for making it possible.

    If you get to Pension Havaiki for a meal (mmmmm... poisson cru), please send our best to Joachim and Clothilde from Tricia and Irene, who stayed there in 2001 (I think), while sailing through with my brother and his wife.

    Joachim does a great intro to pearl farming, too.

    Best to you both, fair winds, good health, etc.