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, October 22, 2016

Turning the page

Sockdolager leaves Port Townsend for her next chapter with her new owners, Dwight and Carmel. 
Sockdolager has been sold. Our eyes mist over a bit, but we know her new owners will take good care of her, and she, in turn, will treat them well. May their voyages, no matter how large or how small, leave a wake of fine and happy memories, including lovely scenes like this one, that found Sockdolager anchored at Wolf Bay, where we discovered to our delight why it was called “Wolf.”

One of our favorite secret spots. Shhhh.
Not counting six or seven dinghies, rafts, and kayaks, we are now down to two boats: Raven, and… did I mention that Jim bought a half-interest in a 53 year-old Thunderbird (26-foot racing sloop,) that with his buddies he races the living bejesus out of? Port Townsend has a large fleet of T-birds, and most of their owners are so gung-ho that Jim felt he had to go down to the docks last Saturday a couple hours before the remnants of Typhoon Songda were to hit, to make sure everyone knew the race that day was canceled.

Thunderbird racing action. Jim's T-Bird is called "Thatuna."
Catching up:  Although much of the summer was spent on boat maintenance and getting Sockdolager ready for sale, (not to mention Jim racing in the T-Bird Regional Regatta,) we did have some spectacular cruises. In April our Colorado-based friends Tom and Alex joined us aboard Raven to Seattle, to greet the incoming Clipper Round the World fleet arriving from Qingdao, China.

Clipper Round the World Race legs. Crews said the North Pacific was the hardest.
Twelve boats, 40,000 miles, 9 countries, 3 great capes, 6 ocean crossings… wow! The four of us knew that the crews of these Clipper 70s were going to be exhausted after a 5,868-mile slog in the frigid, stormy North Pacific in March while burning an average of 5,000 calories per crew per day. Hm, we thought, what might such people need besides sleep?

Pizza, of course!
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston is the originator of the 20 year-old Clipper race. For those of you who haven’t heard of him, let’s just say that he’s one of the most major gods in sailing’s pantheon. He won the first around the world nonstop solo race ever, in 1969, and at 78 he is still one seriously bada$$ sailor.

Tom, Alex and the Clipper fleet in Australia.
Tom had raced aboard the Clipper boat “Garmin” from Cape Town, South Africa to Airlie Beach, Australia, via the southern route, and he participated in the Sydney-Hobart Race. Hoo boy, the stories that man can tell!

Some of Tom’s friends were still aboard Garmin, and he was eager to see them. But… one does not greet such a fleet empty-handed, does one? Alex and I organized a shopping trip, and off we went to pick up goodies for the incoming crews… ohboyohboyohboy, we chuckled, are they ever gonna be surprised! Piles of food disappeared into Raven’s commodious storage spaces, even filling the dinghy.

Plenty of room for stowing extra food. We filled the dinghy.
Now we can hear you saying, wait a gol-durned minute, these race boats are coming INTO the land of the Big PX and you’re shopping for food? What were you thinking?


Over the space of a week or so, we went roaring up full throttle to every incoming Clipper boat we could find, all of us honking and waving wildly, making Raven look like a boatful of spiders. SLOW DOWN! WE HAVE FRESH FOOOOOOD FOR YOU! we yelled.

Raven at full speed trying to flag down Garmin. Campbell Mackie photo
Eager as they were to get in to port, their stunned expressions said it all as a boathook was extended from Raven’s bow to their sterns, loaded with bags containing fresh oranges, sandwich meat, cheese, bread, cookies, pastries, fruit juice, and pizza. EAT IT BEFORE YOU CLEAR INTO CUSTOMS, we meant to say, but that was not necessary.

Garmin crew not quite believing their eyes. Photo: Alex Weaver.
We ambushed three Clipper boats about 10 miles north of Seattle, and later two more off Port Townsend. One of the skippers gushed in an on-camera news interview at the Seattle dock, “...and then there was this little boat that dashed out from shore and gave us PIZZA!”

The witty LMax crew eyeing the bag 'O food.
One of the Clipper boats, LMax, had a French skipper, Olivier, who observed the food transfer and drily asked, “What, no wine?”


“Oh, white, sil vous plais.”

We tossed him a Bota Box. “Don’t worry,” we said, “it’s good boat wine and it bounces!”

The stormy North Pacific stripped the entire port side of this Clipper boat.
Knowing well in advance that Tom and Alex were coming to visit, we had started trying in January to make a reservation for April moorage at Seattle’s downtown Bell Harbor, where all the Clipper boats would be staying.

Bell Harbor Marina, downtown Seattle. Photo: Port of Seattle.
It’s too early, the marina staff said. So Jim called every week. Still too early, they said. Then: It’s too late, we’re all booked up. In one week? Rats, we said, and made plans to moor at Bainbridge Island across Puget Sound and take the ferry to Seattle each day. But on the day we arrived, we radioed Bell Harbor Marina to ask permission to drop off Tom and Alex and the family of another Garmin crew member. “Can we stay for an hour, just to see the boats?” Sure, they said. An hour later, Jim asked, “Can we stay for the night?” Sure, they said. You got the last berth, stay as long as you want.


Raven at her duty station.
We tied up among some bajillion-dollar yachts, feeling rather smug. The thing is, Raven was on the main dock fairway, and everyone on the Clipper boats had to walk past us to get to the gate to street level.

“Tom, do you think Sir Robin’ll be here in Seattle?” I said, gripping a well-thumbed first edition of Sir Robin’s book about that 1969 race, called “A World of My Own.”

“Oh yeah,” said Tom, “He always shows up at race stopovers.” And so begins the Tale of the Little Rogue Hospitality Boat.

The world's only Temporary Floating Clipper Race Pub.

Alex and I each had our copies of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s book, so we lay in wait for him to walk down the dock. Here he comes, I said.

Leave this to me, said Alex, and called out, “Sir Robin! Would you sign our books?”

“Why sure,” he said.

“Would you like to come aboard?” asked Jim, followed by, “And would you like a beer or glass of wine?”

“Red wine, please.”

Thus began an epic era in the annals of maritime history that did not end for three whole days.

At first: “Sir Robin…” said Alex.

“Stop calling me Sir, it’s just Robin,” he said.

Okay, we said.

“Have you got any more wine?” he said.

So there we were, a gathering crowd listening to the man himself spin yarns late into the evening, over mostly liquid dinners. It was, to put it mildly, an astonishing development.

“I’ve got an old friend who lives in this area, Robin mused, “John Guzzwell, it’s been years…”

“I KNOW HIM!” I exclaimed, then thought, just call him. Won’t that be a surprise. So I went below to call John, and he was pleased to hear from me. I told him who our guest was, and he said, “Oh, put him on, I’d love to talk to him!” So, walking up the steps from the cabin, I held out my phone and said, “Robin, John Guzzwell would like to speak with you.” He looked at me stunned, then looked at the phone and blurted, “Oh for God’s sake!” and reached for it. I laughed. They had a great conversation and we arranged to get these sailing legends together, two nights hence. For those of you who haven’t heard of John, he sailed the 21-foot self-built Trekka around the world in 1959. Robin told us that he himself had been utterly inspired by John.

Clipper boat Qingdao wins the beauty contest.
During daytime, racing sails needed mending, so for the next few days Alex and I patched, sewed and glued a gigantic genoa, with sail palms and sewing awls. We put in more than a dozen patches.

Seattle's cruise ship baggage handling area became a sail loft.
Many sail repairs we could not tackle because the damage was too bad, so those went to the professionals.

Garmin's genoa clew ripped right out in a 60-knot gust.

Dr. Alex repairs sails. "Just like stitching up patients," she said.

Garmin was also one of three or four boats that broke their carbon fiber bowsprits.
Garmin crew holds up broken bowsprit. All repairs were made during the brief stopover, but for the crews and race support staff it was a scramble.
There was plenty of damage after this exceptionally rough passage.

One of many bent stanchions - this one was aboard Unicef.
On the first evening, the well-stocked Raven filled with sailors from around the world. Robin held court as everyone listened.

Around 7PM a couple of well-dressed men stood on the dock and peered in. Come aboard! I said, but they demurred. What they wanted was for Robin to come to their boat, which was one of the bajillion dollar babies parked nearby, because they were all ready to host him. A collection of other equally well-dressed people were evidently waiting, too. Jim and I figured it must have been the official hospitality boat. Uh-oh, I thought, we might be interfering with official functions.

“Right. I’ll be over straight away,” said Robin.

An hour later, the envoy was back. “We’d like to INVITE you to come over to our boat,” they said, pointing. So Robin and his crew went, but were back aboard Raven within 90 minutes, and stayed until what in a pub would be called “closing time.”

“We’d better buy more boxes of wine,” I said to Jim. “That was fun!”

Our cruising friend Will Sugg could hardly believe it when I posted what was happening on Facebook, so he joined us for sail-mending over the next two days, and naturally, for the evening’s activities.

Will Sugg helps Catherine, Garmin's crew in charge of sail repairs.
Robin stopped by in the afternoon, pressed a wad of cash into my hand and said, “Take this. No arguments. I’ve been drinking up all your wine.” So each evening I filled Robin’s glass, and it was fuel for the best stories ever.

Around 7PM, THREE well-dressed men stood outside Raven, but would not come aboard. “We were HOPING you might come over to OUR boat,” they said to Robin. “Be there in just a minute,” he answered. An hour later I whispered to Jim, “Here they come again, I think they hate us.”

Next day, sail repairs, third night, more wine and tales aboard Raven, but this time there were two well-dressed men and one well-dressed woman in the 7 PM envoy. I was feeling sorry for them, but hey, it was party time on the good ole Raven. And not only that, John and Dorothy Guzzwell were aboard, and the Clipper crews who recognized them were amazed, and we’d ordered pizza for everyone and were all having the time of our lives. In this photo Robin Knox-Johnston, Tom Reese, Jim Heumann and John Guzzwell are discussing offshore sailing. Jim said later, “I was about to say how long and tiring our 37-day passage from Mexico to the Marquesas was until I remembered just in time, who I was talking to!”
Robin Knox-Johnston, Tom Reese, Jim Heumann and John Guzzwell.
“Really,” said one of the well-dressed men standing outside Raven, as nicely as possible, “We would like to have you come over to OUR BOAT. We have a fully stocked bar and hors d’oeuvres.”

“I promise you, WE will be over soon,” said Robin. At this I was thinking, nuh-uh, they don't want me, not in these Carhartts.  Just then, the “Visit Seattle” Clipper race boat arrived from China, and the entire Raven party, along with the bajillion dollar boat envoy, went down the dock to cheer them in. Speeches were made and Visit Seattle’s crew were whisked off to Customs to clear in, and when they came back down the dock we were dangling slices of pizza at them. The other boat’s envoy did not know who John Guzzwell was, so Robin explained it to them, in deservedly glowing terms, and the envoy invited him and Dorothy to their boat, too. By now they had stopped making eye contact with me, even though I was trying to tell them with my conciliatory smile, we didn't steal Robin, he just likes it here.

As Robin, John and Dorothy were leaving with the envoy, I said, “We’ll see you later,” but Robin looked at Jim, Alex, and Tom, grabbed my hand and said, “Oh no you don’t, you’re coming with us!” So, like pirates at a Blackbeard barbecue, the entire Raven party boarded the bajillion dollar boat, and its owners were mighty good sports about it. Jim and I made an early exit (I mean, Carhartts and Gucci, really) but within 90 minutes the gang was back aboard Raven. “We drank them dry,” someone said.

A sign stuck in Raven's window. 
Earlier that evening, we had told Robin that this would be our last night in Seattle, as we had to get back home. “You CAN’T leave!” he said, “What are we going to do without you?” So the evening grew merrier and continued, shall we say, “quite late,” with stories and yarns.  At one point Robin was standing near Raven’s starboard (dock) side telling a story, and when we all crowded around him, the combined weight of all of us together caused Raven to heel over a little, and the next thing we knew, Robin was doing a slo-mo- backwards fall off the boat. But being the athlete he is, he managed to grip with his knees the boat’s rail as he went over, which softened his descent into what looked like more of a melting than a fall. He landed on the dock with his feet still in the boat and knees draped over the rail, without spilling a single drop of wine.

There was a stunned silence. Good god, I thought, the great Robin Knox-Johnston just fell off our boat. What the hell do we do now?

Will Sugg and others listening to Robin Knox-Johnston on the last night.
Without missing a beat he let out a laugh, which caused us a huge sigh of relief. Handing me his wine glass, he reached for peoples’ arms, and we pulled him back aboard, apparently none the worse for wear. A few more stories were told and we bid each other fond farewells.

Karen Sullivan, Robin Knox-Johnston, and Jim Heumann.
Since then, the Clipper boats have returned to England and are getting ready for the next round-the-world race. Guess who’s going to be on it?  Alex. You go, girl.

NOt counting a few short jaunts, there were two more cruises this year, both to Canada via the San Juans, and another 4-day sail in the San Juans aboard the 137' schooner Adventuress, but we’re going to save them for the next post.


  1. Hi Karen and Jim,

    What a coup! Raven has justified her presence in your fleet forevermore.
    Henry Li S/V Lola

  2. Still the littlest boat with the biggest party. Glad you are having a ball. Mike and Marie