Friday, August 9, 2013

Homeward Bound -- Hawaii to Sequim Bay

Day 1 – Thursday, June 27th

Whoohoo! We’re off! We left the dock at Ko Olina Marina (Barber’s Point) on the west side of Oahu at 0900 as planned. A freighter, named the “Overseas Anacortes”, escorted by two tugs, followed us out. AIS (our computer run vehicle identification system) told us they were bound for San Francisco, then maybe on to Anacortes? They will soon be days ahead of us!

We motor sailed about 4 hours in light wind along the leeward side of Oahu – beautiful coastline – rugged, Kelly green and mostly undeveloped– we think it might be where they filmed Jurassic Park.      
                                         Good-bye Hawaiian Islands -- thanks for the rest stop.
As we neared the Northwest point of the island, the wind kicked up quickly to 25 knots – the trade winds whipping around the corner and creating lots of chop too. We double reefed the main and continued beating, taking a NW heading of about 340 and starting 4-hr watches. Louise had an active watch from noon to 4 and I put together simple lunch food.

The squalls came up through the early evening and night. They are clearly seen coming in the daylight – sheer grey sheets reaching from the low dark clouds to the water surface. At night they show up on radar up to 12 miles away. We rigged the staysail before dark, and furled the jib for each 15-minute squall. They only brought a little spitting of rain – but they did bring dramatic clouds and a double rainbow before sunset. 

Louise is getting her sea legs and hanging on in the galley.

More squalls through the night kept our sails small and speed low, but Friday morning we are cruising along again at about 7 kts and making a NNE heading – straight for Seattle! Probably not for long – we have sent our position report to Commanders' Weather -- the professional weather routing service we have contracted to provide forecasts and recommendations. It will be interesting to see if they mail us back any changes in their proposed route. It seems funny to be taking a non-traditional route, after the months of studying the classic route – but it’s not a traditional year. This could save us many miles – we also may need to back track if they guessed wrong. But for now, we are headed in the right direction. The boat likes to beat and Sully handles the heading well. All in all, a good first day and night. Looks like we will put 120 nm on the odometer in our first 24 hours.

We had one great spinnaker day early in the passage.

Another 24 hours to the NE   
It’s now Friday, June 28, and Day 2. A smooth ride, beautiful sunny weather, and a star-studded night. If this were the ride all the way, I’d (maybe) sign on to do it again! Really no problems. Also, no fish. Mid-day yesterday, the tuna plug (last of our stock) got a big hit… ZZZIIIING… SNAP! At the same time, the second line that was out from the other side of the boat went slack with a broken line. 
We think a big fish that stole the tuna plug also hooked the second lure in its struggle to escape as it came in all entangled in the first line. Oh, well. We still have a packed freezer and are just beginning to make a dent in the produce and pre-cooked casseroles.

Teaming up to furl the jib

Everyone took a turn for a shower today in the cockpit – the water is only slightly warm, as we have not run the engine since leaving the marina – but the sun is warm and the cool water feels good. Louise is trying to keep on plenty of sunscreen, but is still getting some ruby red shoulders – it’s such an intense sun here close to the equator.

There are more sea birds so far than on the Eastern side of Hawaii. They appear in groups of 2, 4 or more. We don’t know the species, but they look especially aerodynamic – super sleek, with thin knife blade shaped wings, fuselage bodies and pointed tails – maybe terns? They swoop and circle at high speed, swiftly gliding on the wind currents and rarely flapping their wings, coming down within inches of the water surface. We have yet to see one land, dive, or get a meal out here. We found one small flying fish on the deck so maybe they are scooping up their snacks faster than the eye can see.

We are keeping on our 4-hour watch schedule. I’m going to trade with Louise tonight, as I have had the lucky 4-8 watches, which means 8pm to 4am hours to sleep in the dark. She’ll get a few days on that schedule. It’s also the best because you have sunset and sunrise – just beautiful!!

We have not had squalls in the last 24-hours. We are emailing our position to the weather folks – they overestimated our speed, so while we are headed in the direction they suggested, we are not as far along the route as they estimated. We need to make some more easterly miles if we are to be close to their routing. So really, the unknown of the pressure systems and the anxiety that comes with doing a non-traditional route are our only concerns. We think we are doing the right thing – it’s a risk – the payoff could be big in timesavings. The stakes are high if we are forcing ourselves into either a High-pressure system with no wind, or a Low that brings stormy headwinds with it. We shall see. .. AND the epic journey CONTINUES…

It is now Wednesday, July 10, our 13th day of the crossing. While we took a hiatus from daily blog entries, there has been no break in the daily and nightly bounce of the ocean, and the rolling along of miles – not always in the most effective direction, but miles under the keel nevertheless. While our daily routines have become familiar – each of us in our own rhythm of sailing, sleeping, eating according to our watch schedule – the days are also comprised of diversity that is handed to us by nature or is of our own making. We’ll write about a few of the highlights. Louise contributed these following three entries!

The doldrums and the water is fine!

Today is day 13 of our crossing. For the most part we have had plenty of wind…though not always precisely in the desired direction… you will see if you track our route via the Delorme website.

Two of the days we experienced what they call the doldrums (that is:  NO WIND).  We motored a long while; but then it was high time to save our fuel for events, possible and supposed, later in our journey.  The motor time is valuable in many ways.  The water maker works when the motor is on and we have warm fresh water!  But we need to conserve fuel, so we killed the motor, lowered the sails and drifted pretty much in the direction we wanted to go.  The boat lay quietly in the water.  These were fine days for doing laundry, swimming and showering.  Now, there is some anxiety amongst the family about any swimming at sea.  I will set the scene for you and you will see that you, too, would have jumped in for a refreshing dip!  First off the boat is practically dead in the water.  Then we trail a line behind the boat.  We take turns so that there is one person on board at all times.  

           And lastly, the sharks aren’t dumb….they are nowhere to be seen.  
The only activity out here is our own, an occasional commercial vessel, our albatross and an abundance of flying fish, which are the color of the deep blue sea and about the size of a mountain trout…not exactly dangerous.  The sharks are closer to shore, where the eatin’ is good.  Okay, I will admit to looking down into the blue more than once, just to make sure, but there are definitely no sharks out here!  I was in the water and Lanham dropped a bolt for me to follow as it fell…..I could still see it as I came up for air about a minute later….the deep blue is gorgeous!!

The things you can catch on the high seas!
Mostly, on the high seas, you tend to stay seated.  When you don’t, quite often you bare the bruises of not quite managing to move in precisely the direction you had intended.  You should see my elbows and knees!

Lanham and I were in the cockpit when we noticed that the dinghy was hanging quite unevenly.  Lanham jumped up and moved with ease (as he does every time he moves on the boat).  He jumped up on the upper ledge of the transom and, leaning out over the rigging that dangles the dinghy, pulled up the slack in the lines on one side.  The dinghy was once more in balance. 

He glanced down into the water behind the boat and, ‘’there!’’:  something green and moving, about a meter deep:  fishing net!  The net was most certainly caught on the propeller:  not good news   (Thank heavens we hadn’t started the motor …)  But now…imagine this…Solar Wind is speeding along and this net must be dealt with.  I grabbed the grab pole.  Lanham got out on the transom.  (yes, he was wearing his life vest…)  I held on to him from inside the cockpit as he got down on all fours and hooked the fishing net.  But it wouldn’t budge.  What now… I suggested we walk the fishing net forward of the propeller, hoping that it would come free.  We attached a line, after I had managed to tangle it every which way.  Lanham walked the net up the side of the boat …and…there came the fishing net!  (about 4 square meters of it)  We would have a great story to tell Melinda, who was sleeping in her bunk.  (BTW…. I, for one, cannot believe how much I sleep on board.  Yes, the watches are tiring ….but, somehow I can’t even manage to read for very long….I lie down in my quarter berth…I think, ‘’I’ll NEVER get to sleep with all this noizzzzzzzzz….)

Not a great thing to catch with the propeller
So, our next question was, of course, ‘’did we get it all?! How do we know for certain that the propeller is free of net?’’ We need a webcam!  So, once again, the trusty cell phone came in handy.  Lanham and Melinda had a waterproof case that would hold Melinda’s phone.  He taped up the seams, just to be sure, and he attached the phone in its waterproof case to a sail batten, long enough, flexible and strong.  We set the phone on video and he scrambled down to the transom and submerged our handy-dandy Solar Wind mobile webcam.  All we needed were a few seconds of clear video.  When we took the phone out of it’s case and played the video….there it was:  the propeller was totally net free!  Hooray!

Some of the "junk" floating by us in the Pacific


What was that!?  Something big!  Behind the boat we see a full length log, 50 centimeters in diameter come a rollin’ up to the surface.  Wow! That might have done some damage.  Lanham and Melinda are immediately opening up the floor of the boat checking for leaks; but Solar Wind seems to have rolled with the punches and has maintained her course beautifully. We guess that the bow of the boat must have hit the side of the log and set it spinning, under the hull, where it hit and rolled down the keel.  We only heard 2 contact sounds, so we are guessing that the propeller was spared.

There is a lot of trash out here in the northeastern Pacific!  Melinda and Lanham say we are seeing more than they saw down the west coast or in all of the Mexican waters. Much of it seems fishing related and the currents cause it to collect in a huge patch or gyre near the center of the North Pacific High. They call it ‘’flotsam’’ and not all of it is benign! Just after the log encounter, we spotted a metal barrel bobbing up and down directly in our path.  Lanham navigated around that rusty object that might have done dangerous things to the hull of the Solar Wind!  What must the fish and birds think of all these strange objects in ‘’their’’ ocean.

The albatros that has accompanied us on this crossing thus far had a moment of confusion over a fishing lure that we had trailing from the boat yesterday.  We heard a ‘’hit’’ on the fishing line.  We looked aft, and there was the albatros, bobbing on the water’s surface pecking at our plastic lure.  Luckily he didn’t bite at the hook and was able to fly away freely.  We pulled in the line and saw that half of the lure was gone.  Hope the bird didn’t swallow…haven’t seen him yet today!

The Red Slipper Rescue

The morning sun and breeze have been great for keeping socks and underwear rinsed and sun-dried. Doing laundry usually goes hand in hand with transom showers. Standing in the laundry bucket and letting the shower run-off fill the tub – one leads to the next. We agitate the clothes as if we were stomping grapes for wine. It was one of our bigger laundry days and with the boat in a no-go drift we had plenty of time for cleanliness. Following her shower, Louise had dressed for the day – it was the 4th of July so she sported her red and white striped T-shirt and her patent leather red flip-flops. We all three were clean and dressed when Louise headed up to the bow to check on the laundry that was drying on the lifelines.

Louise doing laundry on a slow day at sea.
We heard a little squeal and Weeza pointed to her red sandal, floating high on the water alongside the boat and slowly starting to drift back toward the stern. She was more than ready to say bye-bye to it when Lanham saw it and like Clarke Kent, whipped off his clothes down to boxers, tossed his glasses behind him toward the cockpit and dove on top of the sandal. Louise and I were still in the process of putting out the stern line we use for swimming when he arrived back at the swim step with flip-flop in hand. We chastised him for his daring move and he pointed out that the boat was drifting without sails at a speed of 0.0 kts and had been all day. So instead we thanked him and helped him back aboard.

As Lanham dried and dressed we all started looking around for the glasses he had dramatically tossed aside before attempting the rescue. Nowhere to be found. Slowly it began to dawn on us that he might have thrown the glasses overboard, ugh -- not a good trade-off – a plastic sandal for prescription sunglasses! As we were about to accept this grim possibility, he found the glasses in good shape, down in the galley. His toss had sent them through the companionway into the cabin. Laundry done and no missing gear! Lanham guarantees he won’t be so heroic when the boat is underway.

Flying Fish Bait

Our fishing luck has continued to plummet. The fish must know Marcus is not aboard, or maybe we are not quite as determined or diligent as he was. We have had a few hits, but even with 130-pound test line, the fish out here in the deep just grab the line and snap it! For several days even the flying fish were not sailing by around the boat. Then with a sudden “whap” a six-inch flying fish landed at our feet in the cockpit. It gave a little struggle to live, but we had already decided that it looked like bait and might be our best strategy for catching a bigger tastier fish.

Our lures were getting taken one at a time and our supply had dwindled. So the little flyer sacrificed his life for our bait, but was eaten in one swift bite by someone bigger who knew how to avoid the hook. We’ll keep trying – maybe we’ll have more luck when we hit salmon waters off the Washington Coast.

Whoops! Ugh!

Lanham under his pile of pillows during his down time in the pipe berth
As we’ve said, squalls have been a big part of the scene in this part of the ocean. Because of all the weather changes there is a lot of reefing and unreefing of the mainsail, and even more furling and unfurling of the jib. Louise and I are able to unfurl, putting out more sail when the wind is down. The problem is that shortly after there will be too much wind, the boat becomes overpowered and Louise and I quickly become overpowered (in the arm muscles) when we try to furl to reduce the size of the jib. We have experimented with a system for using a winch to furl, and it works for one side, but not for the starboard tack that we have been on for days. The outcome is that Lanham is pretty much “on call” 24/7 to come (out of a sound sleep?) and help us furl some jib when a squall is starting to stir the air.

Lanham serving us all a celebratory "juice"
One evening, as we readied for night, Lanham was on deck doing the “reefing dance”. The sail was covering the deck and as he stepped forward there was suddenly no surface below his foot -- his leg went straight through the open hatch. He slammed to the deck with an “oof,” catching the weight of his body first with his ribs, then his elbows and shoulders. I was next to him in a second and Louise and I think that within ten seconds we both mentally went through all the possible horrifying scenarios that could follow if he was seriously injured.

Within a few long minutes he got his wind, and was able to get up --with at least one cracked rib and some aches that he treated with aspirin for the next few days. We’ve all heard the well-known rule about closing all hatch covers before doing work on the deck. It happens faster than you can imagine! Lanham thought he might need to lie around and give us orders for a few days, but the feeling wore off. We feel lucky and relieved.

Making Contact

Standing watch on Solar Wind means you take your 4-hour turn to be in the cockpit, hand steering or helping Sully steer the heading as close to our ideal course as the wind will allow. Often, with the wind direction shifting within about a 100-degree range this requires pretty active “watching” of the instruments and mast-head indicator, some keen listening for the beginning sound of a luffing sail and some quick wheel turning or button pushing to keep the sails full and maintain optimum course. While small course adjustments are constantly made, the wind speed is often changeable -- falling or peaking—and on watch you decide whether it is a temporary decline, a momentary gust, or a strong and lasting change that requires more sail to be put out (for speed) or some of the sail area reduced (for control and safety). While most of our sail reefing can be done from inside the cockpit, it is easier with two people and so being on watch often means calling or waking someone to consult or give you a hand.


Most often nighttime watches are quiet, solitary, peaceful, and contemplative. The stars have been dramatic. Not super bright but such a vast dusting – almost more pinpoints of light than darkness between. We saw our first thumbnail of a moon a couple nights ago and hope we have some more cloudless nights as it waxes and sends us some moonshine.

Of course, the main task of one on watch is scanning the horizon for other ships or large debris during the day, and at night, peering through the darkness for lights on the horizon and staring at the radar monitor when it comes on every 10 minutes. It is easy to get a little complacent about this “watching” when night after day after night after day… we see not a soul out here in the vast waters that stretch in every direction. And then quite SUDDENLY there can be a vessel… and the fun begins!

Japanese War Ship 181 appeared on the horizon
two days off Hawaiian Islands,
but was blocked on radar
Our first contact was made not far off of the Hawaiian Islands. In daylight we saw a grey military-looking ship the size of a skyscraper dead ahead about 2 miles away, and a second similarly large ship further off. Two miles is closer than we like to be until we know that a large ship sees us and we know what it’s plans are. We put out a call on the radio for the vessel in our latitude/longitude vicinity. A voice came back, with a strong accent and after several polite attempts we got his message: “This is Japanese War Ship 181. I see you. Please maintain course… Bon Voyage.” We had flipped on radar to try to get a read on his distance and course, but strangely this huge target never showed up on our monitor. We watched as Japanese Stealth Ship quickly moved across our bow and were amazed to see two helicopters take off from the flight deck while beside us. Her companion ship passed on the other side without making contact. Wish we knew more about where they were headed and was their mission secret or just mysterious?

We have made radio contact with at least two more ship captains – both in the wee hours of darkness. One vessel overtook us, and we don’t think saw us until we radioed to ask his intentions. We think this was a freighter and the chatty pilot said he wished he was on a sailboat instead. While the person on watch can quietly hail another boat, the voice that comes back over the radio is usually booming – and it’s exciting enough to bring everyone out of their berths to see the lights and hear the conversation.

Another night we all three watched a slow-moving tug and barge coming toward us, and then begin to make a wide slow turn in front of us. We altered course to slow down and take his stern. The captain was a little sleepy sounding and we wondered why he decided to execute his turn across our path when he has the rest of the big empty ocean available. The tug was headed to Hawaii and like others, he was friendly and glad to make contact, wishing us a pleasant evening and safe trip. Being back in US waters we have already seen more commercial traffic than our earlier passages, and we expect to get even busier on the radar and radio as we near the Washington Coast shipping lanes.

Everyday Diversity

The captain cooked up a little celebration
when we hit 40 degrees north latitude -- keeping up crew
It’s Saturday, July 13, according to the calendar and if we are counting correctly, it is Day 17. And Louise says she still hasn’t been bored on the trip! Actually, none of us would probably use the word boring to describe the passing of time. Some other words come to mind – tiring, wearing, constant, sometimes inspiring, sometimes   frustrating, sometimes empowering, sometimes humbling and definitely, L-O-N-G. While parts of the routines are certainly repetitive, there is diversity in everyday and night.

The weather, wind, clouds, and sea state provide constant variety in our vista and in the feel of our outdoor cockpit room. The cockpit doors remain off, so even in the salon we feel and hear the strength of the wind in the rigging and the waves against the hull. It’s cliché but there really are so many moods of the ocean. The color of the water changes with the hours of daylight – from silver grey, to brilliant turquoise, to deep violet-black,  and to green in the northwest waters. Sometimes it has the motion of a water bed, rhythmic rolling wave trains that rock you to sleep, or bigger rollers that lift you and set you down peacefully. Other times it’s up, up, down, up, over, SLAM – the bow of the boat ramps off a big wave and Solar Wind gives a shudder from her keel to masthead.

During the 16 hours of light, the sky transforms many times – we have transitioned from mostly wispy high clouds to dark grey heavy thunderheads to puffy white sunlit cumulus to thick fog with the misty air that tells you you’re inside the clouds – if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes. 

So what makes today different? Maybe it’s a visit from the albatross that we think is surely the same fellow entertaining us (and watching out for us?) with his graceful soaring around the boat. Maybe, it’s the night of phosphorescence streaking from our wake that is the brightest yet. Shower day, laundry day, time to read a book?  Maybe, it’s something of our own creation – like dinner!
Litte treats like garlic stuffed olives
become a highlight of the day
We’ve continued to eat well. Louise and I have fun taking turns concocting simple, but delicious and nutritious, meals. Last night was seasoned rice, sautéed carrots with onion, and talapia fillets (out of the freezer dept, not, unfortunately, off the pole). Tonight, it’s baked sweet potato and pork. We’ve baked beer bread, carrot spice cake, and tortilla chips. The stores are holding up well (except in a couple departments). We will be cutting it close on coffee and wine (of course). Most challenging may turn out to be a shortage of propane. We left Hawaii with one full tank, and didn’t bother to find a place to fill the second, only because we have never come close to using one up. Alas, we have used about 2/3 and are starting to think about unheated foods.

Louise kept up her workout regimen -- even sitting on the boat
is pretty good core work

Another diversion has been “movie night.” Several evenings the seas have cooperated and we have gathered ‘round Louise’s computer for the rather unreal sensation of being taken away to another time and place while continuing to course through the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Most memorable was sitting in the cockpit, streaming smoothly through the massive ocean while listening on surround sound speakers to the ordeal of Tom Hanks and his crew orbiting the moon to get safely back to our planet aboard Apollo 13. A bit unreal… and a great escape from our own escapades!

Energy and Cooking Woes

Command Central
Day 18 and 19 have brought new variety, challenges, and worries. The battery bank has been niggling on Lanham’s brain as he reads the figures on the Emon (energy monitor) which give digital readings of volts and amps remaining, consumption and recharge rate. Rather suddenly, the voltage readings have been less than normal. They come up when the engine is run and alternator engaged, but run down quickly when sailing. As of yesterday morning we have gone on an energy diet. After making a list of Luxuries, Basics, and Essentials we are cutting out the luxuries such as the house water pump (we have foot pumps instead), have gone to blasting the fridge a few hours a day and turning it off at night, and are doing more hand steering to save power used by the auto pilot.

Our "Good Luck" bands, gifts from
cruising friends, have not let us down!

At the height of our worry, we contacted the Coast Guard and in a very poor connection were able to communicate our intended arrival date at Cape Flattery and let them know that we might be coming into port without running lights and radar. Rebooting the Emon, replacing the alternator belt, topping up the battery cells with distilled water, checking the specific gravity with a hydrometer and keeping the solar panels tuned toward the sun even in overcast skies have made a little difference. The numbers look better a couple of days later and it appears we will make it the last 10 days, if we continue to watch consumption. The battery bank is only a little over two years old, so we should NOT have to buy new batteries… but we’ll see…

Meanwhile, the mid-night attempt to boil water for that precious essential cup of coffee resulted in no flame at the propane burners – we knew that we were down to a half tank of propane – could we really have gone through it so fast?? Horror  -- ten days to go, no hot coffee or tea, no warm meals? How could we have calculated so incorrectly? We’ve never had to watch the propane supply before? First the batteries, now the propane – the luxury cruise is truly over! At times like this it helps to think about how many boat systems are still working and how much more dangerous or desperate our situation could be.

Figuring out the "new" cook free menu

Necesssity (and comfort) being the mother of invention and all that, we got creative. Melinda and Louise inventoried the entire food stores, down to the bottom of the lower lowers where there were canned fruits and veggies from before departing Seattle (why would we have dipped into those when we’ve had fresh peppers and pineapple?). We moved everything that could be consumed without cooking to the top and front, made lists, and brainstormed combinations that sounded like meals. 

In the meantime, Lanham rigged an alcohol burner to sit on the gimbaled stove top and by rationing the 2 liters of rubbing alcohol we had on board we were able to warm one meal a day and boil the occasional pot of water. 
The alcohol burner

Our most critical need was for a way to consume caffeine when we’d get sleepy during watches. Lanham’s secret chef talent devised the instant coffee cookie. All of your powdered coffee, mixed with a half brick of cream cheese, and a little butter and sugar, made a potent mocha frosting that we used on Mexican vanilla wafers. They of course also had to be rationed, so you relished your half a special cookie and the little lift it gave you. We were able to stay quite satisfied and healthy with granola bars and bran cereal with soymilk, canned tuna, chicken, or pork with canned beans, corn, tomatoes and cheese. 
Weeza mixing up her no-bake peanut butter power balls.

We had plenty of peanut butter but not that much to spread it on so we concocted no-bake peanut butter energy balls with granola and chocolate chips, dusted in cocoa powder. We made sun tea, miso soup, and scrambled the last of the Mexican eggs over the alcohol burner. (Yes, we did use all 10 dozen eggs we started with and only a few went bad and overboard – we kept them un-refrigerated, near the waterline and against the cool hull. The motion of the boat was enough that we did not need to turn them.)

So… in the final chapter, the batteries continued to heal themselves and we had plenty of power for lights, radar and radio all the way into port (we will be watching and trouble shooting this fall).
And… when we went to take the empty propane tank out for refilling, it was not so empty. A bang on the regulator got it going. It’s not yet reliable (we will be redoing the wiring to the solinoid). The trip may end, the boat projects, never.

We Were Not Alone….

As I passed the torch at midnight, from my watch to Lanham, the full moon lit a patch of water and my ears tuned to hear a long slow exhale of air and slosh of water off to starboard. We both listened and it came again, and again. An auditory hallucination? more likely a sleeping whale. And sure enough, here is what Louise writes about the next morning:

They call it ‘’the big pond”, and that it is:  BIG!  As I talked about my upcoming trip to cross the Pacific from Hawaii to Washington State, many of my friends would comment on the supposed monotonous view:  water, water everywhere.  My experience was that the view was ever changing, fascinating:  the color of the water, the shape of the swell , the cloud formations, the wind waves, the stars and the moon at night.  Your vision changes, you learn to have an ‘’eagle’s eye’’…  So it was, on a day with moderate swell and plentiful white caps that my eye caught a different movement on the horizon.  There, at 2 o’clock (that’s how we often described the location of a citing…)…there was a difference in the white foaming sea water….I waited and watched…suddenly a grey whale shot vertically out of the water, twisted and went crashing back into the water, fin pointing towards the sky!!  All three of us watched and laughed as the whales played in the surf and the sun.  We weren’t alone out there and that felt good.

On Target… Finally

After Day 20, we are finally on more or less of a rhumb line for the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We have gotten our last of 4 five-day forecasts from Commanders’ Weather routers. While their description of the ever-changing North Pacific High and all the other little high and low pressure ridges, troughs, and zones we have been routing around is a little lost in translation, we find we can finally head more East than north, west, or (heaven forbid, south). And… better yet, the wind is clocking around as predicted and we get the sleigh ride of a broad reach. Full sails out, rollers higher than the dinghy on its davits, and 140 to 155 mile days! Again, we have put out a warp to help steer as we surf down the face of giant rollers going our way. For the most part the swell is harmonious and Solar Wind is happily heading to the barn.

Bundled up coming into Neah Bay, after 26 days out
We start to recalculate our days to go, figuring out the variables in order to intersect Cape Flattery in daylight hours, and refigure our fuel consumption, maintaining a reserve of 20 hours for making it through the straits should we need it. With our northern progress and the increasing latitudes has come “chilllly weather.” We are in full foulies, hats and gloves.

Sleeping in layers of clothes inside sleeping bags, and even putting on socks with our shoes for the first time in 10 months! 

Our last (and biggest) tuna caught in the Pacific

A couple memorable events in these last days included reeling in a fat (maybe 25lb) Big Eye tuna to share at the family homecoming, and the reinforcing of the newly cracked radar arch. (ugh!) Even with the welding done in Mexico to reinforce it, the pounding of the ocean crossing was too much. Back to the drawing board and designing modifications.

Land Ho!

            Through the fog and against the current, we rounded Cape Flattery about 8pm on Day 26. The seas had been choppy and mixed around the cape, the 4 hour motor since we had lowered the sails had taken 8 hours. Due to the ebb tide, our 6 knot engine speed was only moving us 2.5 knots over the ground. 

As dark settled, the full moon came up, the ghostly image of Tatoosh Island and surrounding rocks appeared through the fog, the swirling tidal currents calmed themselves and we motored toward the surprisingly numerous lights of Neah Bay. Having called the Mini-Mart at the Makah Marina earlier in the day, we were told to pull in anywhere and so we glided into a slip between fishing boats. Jumping to the dock proved to be challenging as we forgot that we had lost our land legs, but we tied up, toasted with a tired nightcap and slept like babes in the absolute stillness of the harbor.

We fueled the next morning at Neah Bay. Pleading “poor fisher people” with a kind local who was at the fuel dock after his successful morning salmon catch, we were gifted a 10-pound Chinook to take home with us. 

A long day of motor sailing through heavy fog brought us into Port Angeles about 6pm. The giant freighters, barges, and Polar ice-breakers that are anchored throughout the harbor appear out of the fog like visions. Our radar and AIS was useful up until the end. 

Read all about our reunion with terra firma and family in Louise's words:
The fog lifted, to show us the way home….

After 4 weeks at sea, as Solar Wind approached land off of Cape Flattery, there was no land to see.  Motoring through dense fog on a 41 foot sailboat, when there are mega-tankers in the area, is no fun.  The most that can be said for it is that the motor was making hot water and the fog provided enough privacy for showers on deck….a not unimportant fact as we neared civilization!

Our first destination was Neah Bay Marina, our final approach:  around midnight.  Above the fog there was a full moon.  As we neared the Marina a narrow slit in the foggy ceiling created a small opening for the moonlight to shine down on the water.  To me, it looked like a landing pad for a UFO.  It was like a scene from the the sci-fi movie:  Close Encounters of a Third Kind.  No one was out there, it was still and dark, except for that one spot of light.  Off toward the shoreline we could see the lights of Neah Bay Marina, an authentic fishing marina.  Quietly we pulled into our slip at the marina.  We were one of the few pleasure boats among the rusty fishing boats.  Melinda jumped easily onto the dock to secure the bowline and I followed to help, but my legs just crumbled beneath me after all those weeks aboard.  No harm done. I got up and staggered around trying to help with the lines.  That night we slept WELL, the marina was so quiet.

The next morning we tanked up and were on our way, once again motoring through even denser fog.  Around 6 pm, as we approached Port Angeles, our destination for the next night, the fog lifted.  Gigantic cargo ships and high-tech ice breakers were to the left and to the right of us.  The harbour at Port Angeles is huge.  There was no problem slipping between the larger vessles; but we were grateful for the daylight and the clearing of the fog.  We had a good meal in town and slept well, looking forward to seeing the family the next day at Sequim Bay Point!

We were forced to motor again, through even denser fog, the next morning.  We could hear the fog horns of the big ships but visibility was no more than 200 feet.  Lanham figured that we would reach Sequim Bay around 2 pm.  At noon the fog began to lift…. we felt the sunshine, saw the Olympic Mountains and Dungeness Light House:  we were getting close!!  It was gorgeous weather and spectacular scenery and our spirits lifted with the fog!  

We saw the opening to Sequim Bay in front us!  We hoisted our flags!  We put on our dutch sailing bandana’s!  We assembled our noise makers!  I cried and hugged Cub and Melinda, thanking them for providing me with a ‘’once in a lifetime experience!!”  But where was the family?  No one on Travis Spit!  Were we early or late?  Did we have the right day?!  Back to civilization….. Melinda called on her cell phone and here they came, with tooters and banners!!!!  

Wooo!Whoo! Making some noise at our homecoming!
                                                                           The "cold wet" welcome committee
Bekah and Ethan braved the cold water and swam to the boat!!  We were waiting for them with a hot shower, plenty of hot water after all of that motoring!  Gary rowed his dinghy out and jumped aboard to greet us!  We loaded ourselves and my luggage into the dinghy’s and rowed ashore to the waiting family!  Hugs, hugs, hugs….tears and laughter!  Carol brought a really fine picnic!  We were HOME!!!  We made it!!!

PS… A final reflection from Louise
Number one question that I have heard:  ‘’would you do it again?’’  My answer:  ‘’Absolutely!!’’
I expected an adventure; I got one!  I knew it would be difficult, physically and emotionally; it was!  I had no idea how beautiful it would be!  I knew it would be tiring; it was exhausting!  I thought it would be scarey; it wasn’t.  Would I do it again?  Yes, yes, yes!!

Family Reunion


The Deal and Devin clan outdid themselves with Welcome Home banners, cheers, applause, and even a cold water swim out to the boat!

The family had 4 glorious days in perfect weather to play, talk, eat, rest, hang, and eat some more, centered around the beautiful newly finished Dungeness Cabin belonging to Carol and Gary. 

The cabin was a foundation when we left Sequim Bay in September...
The "perfect" elegant family get away...

and is now a family retreat – what an accomplishment.
Highlights included badmiton and pickle ball tournaments, a wood-fired pizza party, and nephew, Chef Josh, creating an edible masterpiece with the tuna and salmon we brought in from the Pacific.
                                                     Thank you family – all! 
The beautiful bluff at Sequim Bay Point
and view from the "cabin"
Champagne all around!
Dan Devin makes a toast to our safe return!
Sisters reunited
 Some photos of our family time together --
nothing tough about living in the Northwest this time of year!

Josh's fresh tuna salad
Anna took time out from Bar Prep to welcome us at the dock

The Austin Texas family enjoyed a boat trip back to Seattle

Dock Welcome and Motley Cruiser Reunion

We were welcomed to the dock at Elliott Bay Marina by more friends, family, and fellow cruisers! Within 48 hours of our homecoming a group of cruising friends we met in Mexico congregated in Seattle, hailing from Vancouver, Santa Barbara, Reno, and Durango! 

 Thanks friends, for welcoming us to our old hometown and new condo. 

There are many acquaintances and fellow sailors to whom we send good wishes for fair seas. We are closing out this Blog for now. Thanks for reading and for living the year with us – it’s been a trip!