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, September 4, 2019

Stealth Pizza, the Coast Guard, and other Delights

Raven delivers pizza at sea to Maiden

There’s a lot to report, and Raven has once again found herself in the middle of things. Fun things. Exciting things. Occasionally weird, hilarious things.

We tend to write fewer but longer blog posts, so if this one’s too long, just break it up into small segments to consume with your morning cereal for a few days.

If you haven’t seen Off Center Harbor’s video of us aboard Raven from last summer, with photos and footage from Alaska, here it is.

From last summer-Reid Harbor at Glacier Bay, Alaska

Stealth pizza delivery boat: As you may recall from a previous post, Raven got a bit of a, uh, “reputation,” shall we say, for becoming a floating pub for Robin Knox-Johnston and other luminaries, and also for delivering pizza and other goodies to a series of hungry, round-the-world sailors inbound from a long cold grueling North Pacific crossing. With our friends and Clipper racers Tom and Alex aboard, we’d dashed out to as many of the racing boats as we could and tossed them bags of fresh oranges, bread, sandwich fixins, cookies, and in one case, that of Clipper skipper Wendy Tuck, we delivered pizza, because we’d read on her blog that she was lusting for it. What we didn’t know back then was she’d been thrown across the boat offshore and had broken a rib, and that pizza was like manna from heaven. It put a warm spot in Wendy’s heart (and stomach) for Port Townsend, so this year when we heard that not only had our friend Kaci Cronkhite arranged for the famous racing sailboat Maiden to do a 2-hour mid-August pit stop in Port Townsend, but also that Wendy Tuck is her captain, well… for the good ole Raven, it was damn the anchovies, pile on the cheese, and full speed ahead.  

With our stealth pizza aboard, along with Jim and our crew for the day Denis Wang and Bill Ferry, we cast off our lines and headed out. To lay in wait. We just loooove ambushes. Maiden was coming up Admiralty Inlet from Seattle, and we stationed ourselves just west of the point of Marrowstone Island, so that they’d see us when they rounded the corner. Just as Maiden was rounding it, I called them on the VHF radio: “Maiden, Maiden, this is the motor vessel Raven. Welcome to Port Townsend.”

Suddenly a voice, excited: “RAVEN!!!! This is Maiden!” It was Wendy herself.

“Maiden, Raven here, we are just around the corner, and we have some pizza for you.”

Sound of cheering and laughter in background. Also, sight of someone jumping up and down. Also, sound of someone else asking, Did we order a pizza? Do we need to get cash? “Raven, this is Maiden. THANK YOU! This is wonderful! I have to explain this tradition to my crew.”

More excited conversation and laughter ensued over the radio, and we half-expected the Coast Guard to break in and say TONE IT DOWN, LADIES. But they didn’t.

The crew was fully briefed about the pizza delivery tradition, Maiden put fenders over the side, steered a steady course at about 4 knots, and Raven came alongside with Jim manning her boathook and lifting the string-tied pizza over to them. Cheers all around! Here’s a video of the handoff

Pizza handoff

Maiden then allowed Raven and an armada of welcoming boats to lead her across the bay toward Port Townsend. A huge crowd—some say as many as 1,500 people—was waiting on the pier, on the maritime Center balconies, and all across the beach, cheering and applauding.

Huge reception at the dock, Port Townsend

The movie, Maiden, was showing that week at Port Townsend’s own Rose Theater, so everyone was very excited. If you haven’t seen it, do—it’s quite astonishing what those women accomplished, and if you don’t get a tear in your eye you can buy me pizza. The crowd gave the Maiden crew a warm welcome, with Hip! Hip! Hooray! echoing, and banners flying, and speeches and our town’s magnificent female sailing cognoscenti on the dock to take lines and welcome them.

Kaci Cronkhite welcomes the skipper & crew of Maiden. Carol Hasse was there and gave a lovely speech.

Karen (not cognoscenti) discusses Raven's next pizza delivery with Wendy Tuck

After a small ceremony and a brief but steady stream of boat tours, Maiden was off again, for San Francisco, then Los Angeles, and south toward Valparaiso, then Cape Horn and beyond. All the way around. With a pizza in the oven as she went out the Strait on a bumpy night. We escorted her out of the bay toward Point Wilson, and after swooping close past us for a final goodbye, off she went into the night.

Maiden swoops past Raven for a final goodbye

It seems like everyone's headed for Cape Horn

Adieu for now to a great sailor: In late August Raven crossed the Strait to Canada, to anchor in Cadboro Bay, about 4 miles east of Victoria’s Inner Harbour. The Royal Victoria Yacht Club is there, and our friends Cathy and Bill Norrie, who are members, have a Bristol Channel Cutter named Pixie, that is so beautiful and seaworthy that just one look at it will roll your socks up and down. 

Bill Norrie

Cathy Norrie

I was also amazed to see that Lin and Larry Pardey had given their Cape Horn charts to Bill, and as we gazed at them in Pixie's cabin, Larry’s precise navigation marks showed the track they had made, the one we’ve all read about. It was wonderful to see.

Cape Horn has a fearsome reputation, but Bill wants to sail close enough to get a good photo

Bill and Cathy had already circumnavigated aboard theirPacific Seacraft 37, Terrwyn, back around the same time we were sailing our Dana 24, Sockdolager, to New Zealand. So it’s not like Bill doesn’t know what he’s in for. His dream is to sail around the world mostly nonstop, and on Monday September 2, he left Canada for Hobart, Tasmania, nonstop via Cape Horn, where the Atlantic, Pacific and Southern Oceans collide. After rounding Cape Horn he may stop at South Georgia Island. From there he’ll go past the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Leeuwin. You can see where he is and follow his mini-blog at Pixiesails, or you can search for PixieSails on Facebook.

 He could hardly wait to get offshore and be out at sea, solo. He loves it out there. His planning, preparation, knowledge and skills are second to none.

Bill in his fancy duds at the departure party
In the night, unseen, he passed Jeanne Socrates aboard Nereida on her way in to Victoria, finishing a second solo nonstop circumnavigation, at age 77. She’s the oldest human, male or female, to have circumnavigated like this. One of her friends called her on her Satellite phone during Bill’s goodbye party, and it was great to hear her voice. She sounded strong and happy.

It’s 7,900 miles to Cape Horn. He’ll be approaching it in late November or early December. So Bill, we wish you the fairest of winds, and low seas, and strong hands for hanging on, and clear eyes for seeing your way to a safe return in a year or so. Cathy will be waiting for you, surrounded by her many friends and family.

A dozen pairs of hands guided Pixie out of her slip 

As Bill cast off his lines with the help of his many friends, he set sail and did a swoop past the docks full of cheering well-wishers.

Aboard Raven, we took Cathy out several miles to accompany Bill on this beginning. As Pixie sailed close alongside Raven she was breathtaking in her sheer exuberant beauty, heeling slightly, wavelets splashing across her chainplates with the promise of much more splashing to come.

Bill looked ecstatic and Cathy was, as you might expect, a mix of emotion, mostly happy for Bill but also full of concern for his safety. She’s one brave woman. And he’s a chaser of dreams who loves the sea, and sailing, and living life to its fullest, more than almost anyone we know.

Bye, Pixie, see you in about a year!

Coast Guard love: Time to come home to Port Townsend. So there we were, bucking a mighty, 4-knot ebb pouring out of Admiralty Inlet, dear little Raven’s throttle wide open and roaring, trying to reach Port Townsend, but making only 1.5 knots. A buoy just sat there for an hour as we crept past it. After 8 hours underway, having arisen at 4:00 am to cross the Strait, home was so near and yet so far.

Sunrise in the Strait of Juan de Fuca

It had been a peaceful morning, with Mother Nature playing artist with her palette of colors. Two friends, Bill and Denis, were along as crew. Jim was busy racing in the International Thunderbird Regatta in Port Townsend Bay, and it was great to have their company.

Suddenly—cue military band music, oh let’s have the Colonel Bogey March—two military ships approached us from astern. Biiiiig, tall military ships.

This is a sistership of the one that passed us, named the Arrowhead.

They decided to pass us on each side, which would mean maximum wake fun for Raven. To starboard was a Navy submarine escort ship, the kind with a long row of heavy steel walls where the sub gets between two of these ships and hides from view as it transits waters inconveniently crowded with civilians. The length of these escort ships doesn’t seem to be available anymore online, so let’s estimate at least 300 feet.

The other ship was the 378-foot US Coast Guard cutter Mellon, and its AIS signal told us it was just coming in from a 13-day crossing from Japan. Wow!

The 378-foot Coast Guard Cutter Mellon

Let me just say here that both ships maintained a safe distance from us, (about a quarter mile on each side) and that any slight exaggerations of wake size for comedic effect are mine alone.

Large wake coming in to starboard from the Navy ship! Do we turn the bow into it and let the swift-moving tide erase our progress? No! Turn to the left and take it from the stern! But wait, here comes the Coast Guard ship on our port side!
We are going to be caught between two converging wakes! We don’t want them to think we’re acting weird, even though we are! Okay then, head for the stern of the Coast Guard ship. Make it a nice sharp right-angle turn to port. But what must they be thinking, with us behaving so erratically? Better call them on the VHF.

Karen: “US Coast Guard Cutter Mellon, this is the motor vessel Raven. Welcome home.”

This was intended as an opening, a nice way of saying don’t worry about us, we’re friendly. Maybe even escorting them toward home for a brief moment. A couple seconds passed, then:

Sound of air kiss. One of those big, wet, fingers-to-mouth smacking noises. On the VHF radio, Channel 16, the calling and distress frequency. Coming from the Coast Guard.

Followed by this 378-foot ship saying: “We’ll give you room to complete your maneuver.”

Followed by howls of laughter aboard Raven, shrieks of OH MY GOD DID THE COAST GUARD JUST DO AN AIR KISS??

Followed by Karen picking up the radio mic and coughing out, “Wakey wakey, roger that.”

Now normally, anyone who chatters too long on Channel 16 gets rightfully shushed off to a working channel by the good folks in Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound, who keep that channel clear for calling and distress, so just imagine, if you will, the shocked hilarity that must have ensued among those radio operators in Seattle. I like to think it matched the laughter aboard Raven. I’m guessing air kisses won’t become a customary US Coast Guard greeting, but under the circumstances of the moment, with the Mellon returning from a big ocean crossing, their response was comedic perfection.

The Customs and Border Protection Service's friendly app logo, with the skipper peering from her jail cell porthole.

Shortly thereafter, checking in at US Customs: I had previously heard of an app called “CBP Roam,” that allows you to enter your passport and other data, which in turn allows you to check in telephonically instead of adding an extra 20+ miles to the water crossing by having to check in at official stations in either Friday Harbor or Port Angeles. Yes, someone said, with this app you can go straight home from Canada to Port Townsend and check in there! I called Customs in advance to confirm this was possible, and the officer said, “Just make sure you have enough cell signal to make the video call when you cross into US waters, or you’ll have to go to a Customs station to check in.”

All-righty then!

I entered the data from our two crew into the app and waited for a decent cell signal, but couldn’t get more than one or two bars until we were just off Point Hudson in Port Townsend. This was a little further than “just crossing into US waters,” but if the call couldn’t go through, according to the Customs officer, we’d have to backtrack 31 miles to Port Angeles to check in in person. Nervously, I followed the app’s directions: Enter name, other required data, press continue, check. Select Boat Master, press continue, check. Hmm, it didn’t ask for passengers. Oh well. Here comes the video call. They can see you, but you can’t see them.

Customs Officer: “Hi. I see you’re right here already.”
Uh-oh, he sounds annoyed. And wow, the app must send out the boat’s GPS coordinates.

Karen: “We couldn’t get a strong enough cell signal until we got this far, and I wanted to make sure we got through to you.”

Customs: “WE? Who else is aboard?”

Uh-oh. Give him the passenger names and say, “But their data is already plugged into the app, you should have it.”

Customs: “I do, but you didn’t list them as passengers.”

Karen: “Um, I’m sorry, but the app…”

Customs: What were you doing in Canada?”

All three of us at once say: “We went to the Classic Boat Show in Victoria and then to a party for a friend who’s sailing around the world!” At this admission, the tone of which probably sounded like three fourth-graders competing for teacher’s pet, we could almost hear the Customs officer thinking, yup, boat people, uh-huh. But he said, “Since you didn’t enter your passengers’ names on the arrival list, I’m going to deny your entry.”

Karen: “Oh dear God.”


A few of the screens inside the app.

I break out in a drenching sweat. “Does this mean we have to go back to Port Angeles to check in?”

Customs: “Oh no, just log out of the app and then log in again, enter the correct data, and try again.”

Whew! But I’m still sweating. What if this doesn’t work?

The next ten or fifteen minutes are spent trying to log out of the app but it won’t allow it. Okay, reboot the phone. Oh dear, same thing, here comes a video call from Customs and you’re not ready. Hang up. Try again, same thing, hang up. Annnnd, once more, but this time let the video call come through because you don’t want to keep hanging up on the federal government. A different Customs officer says, “You haven’t entered your passengers’ names, so I’m going to deny your entry.”

Great, now I’m a repeat offender. I can see the headlines: Woman human trafficker smuggles two dudes into Port Townsend who already live there. And look! Over there, just across the bay, it’s Jim, racing his Thunderbird… goodbye my darling, it’s off to the hoosegow for your little chicken.

By now I’m exhibiting clear signs of APP-rehension: “Okay, but our entry has already been denied once, and the app won’t let me…”

Customs: “Try rebooting your phone.”

Karen: “I did.”

Customs: “Okay, I see what happened—I’m still in your file trying to process it, so give me a minute to log out and then try again.”

I do, and as Raven makes circles outside Point Hudson, the first Customs Officer comes back: “Okay, now I see your passengers’ data. Let me talk to them.”

I point the phone at Denis, then Bill, then back at myself, drenched in sweat. I must look utterly guilty of something, because don’t most criminals sweat like this? And the very act of sweating this much makes me even more conscious of the fact that sweating isn’t good when you’re being questioned by the government, which of course makes me sweat even more. Yes it’s a warm muggy day, but you, dear reader, haven’t tried touring the inside of my imagination.

The Customs officer says, “I’m approving your entry,” and I say, “OH THANK YOU!” which sounds a little too relieved, know what I mean? I ask, Sir, can I explain the reason for my mistake? And he says yes, so I say the reason is that the app didn’t specifically ask for the passengers’ names, and I didn’t want to select three Boat Masters, and he says okay, which makes me hope he will tell someone in the Software Department so they can keep this from happening to other people, but this is the government, and I know how it might go because I used to work for the government, so fair warning, everyone, I made the mistake so you don’t have to: Be sure to select the Boat Master first, and then select all the passengers before hitting the blue bar that says CONTINUE. Unless they fix the app first. Then good luck to you in your stateless limbo.

Just as the video conference finishes, without realizing that he can probably still hear me, I yell, “We’re legal! We’re legal!” And then I think, Oh dear God, I hope Customs has a sense of humor like the Coast Guard does.

Regressing in time to the Classic Boat Festival in Victoria’s Inner Harbour, where the docks in front of the majestic Empress Hotel were lined with enough varnished wooden magnificence to create a need for drool rags, people happily walked among these beauties, chatted up their owners, sometimes went aboard for a tour, and looked as if we were all reverting to happy carefree childhoods. An event like that energizes me as if I’ve been breathing pure oxygen, and it’s highly recommended. And guess what? Just in time to satisfy more craving, this weekend it's Port Townsend's turn--the Wooden Boat Festival!

Now, in addition to Raven’s growing fame as offshore pizza delivery boat and round-the-world escort service, we can also say she was air-kissed by a United States Coast Guard Cutter. Okay wait, I retract round-the-world escort service, that didn’t sound quite right. Make that boat arrival escort service… no, wait, how ‘bout… oh dear, I’m sweating again.

Raven bids adieu to Maiden as she rounds Pt Wilson into the Strait

Thanks to Elizabeth Becker, Jan Davis, Bill Ferry, and Denis Wang for photos and videos.

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