Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Sailing with Dummies (Alaska to Seattle Edition)

Wednesday-Tuesday, August 7- September 2, 2008

by Mike

Wednesday I got up early and took off in the rain, motoring toward Canada. Prince Rupert Canada. It was fairly rough during the morning, with 15-foot waves from the side. These got smaller as the wind decreased. By mid-afternoon the wind picked up and was coming almost directly from Price Rupert. That was a condition I was getting familiar with. Eventually, I docked at a fishing dock in Prince Rupert and slept peacefully that night.

The next day Bob showed up with Cathy, Melinda, Josh, and Patty. I invited them all to go with me. Patty was the only taker. Apparently not enough time had passed since Bob, Cathy, Melinda, and Josh had spent time with me on a boat. It takes time for a person’s memory to fade a proper amount. Just ask Serge.

Friday morning we woke up to sunshine! Patty informed me that she was Ta’Veran, and thereby responsible for the good weather. Very similar to Fullerton claiming to be Methodist, if you asked me. In any case, I rejoiced at the good weather and we took off headed south.

For the next 36 hours we sailed (actually we primarily motored, although a sail was up most of the time) south through Hecate Strait, through Queen Charlotte Sound, and into Queen Charlotte Strait, where we anchored for the night. It a nice trip. We saw whales several times and could see the shorelines and mountains. Very nice. But it was not to be completed without a sizeable disaster.

After lunch on Friday we were still zigzagging through a bunch of islands south of Prince Rupert. I decided to get the Scrabble game out and prepare to administer a sound thrashing to my wife. Naturally she was scared. And I, while confident, behaved very humbly. We got the board out on the table. We settled a slight disagreement over who would keep score (I always have to keep score – it’s not fair!). Then we discovered that the tiles had mold on them. Blah!

Patty put the tiles in some soap and water to soak them. In order to make sure the mold died, I added some bleach. A couple of hours later Patty started to rinse off the tiles so we could play. But we couldn’t play. The letters had come off the tiles. Double blah! And to top it all off, Patty blamed me for adding bleach (of course, it’s obvious to everyone else that she left them in the soap too long). Women!

We anchored Saturday evening in a Mitchell Bay on Malcolm Island in Queen Charlotte Strait in British Columbia in Canada and dined on grilled steak and lots of trimmings. We also slept well that night since the previous night we were on the water using the tag-team watch system.

Sunday took us through Johnstone Strait and down the Campbell River. The Campbell River has some impressive currents. Sometimes they were with us. Sometimes not. The most impressive currents we encountered were rounding a corner to the left, just north of the town, Campbell River. We had more 7-8 knots of current pushing us along. Up ahead we could see rough water, even though there was little wind. The current was changing.

As we got closer to the rough water we could see large, flat calm places, maybe 100-200 yards in diameter. And next to them would be larger areas whipped into a frenzy with whitecaps. Along the borders of these calm and rough areas were occasional waves of pretty good size. The areas were constantly moving and changing from calm to rough and so forth. These conditions were visible for nearly a mile. There were some jet-skis and small boats that came out at high speed and jumped the waves that were created by the conditions.

Entering these waters was kind of unsettling. Our speed over ground was 16-18 knots. Our speed through the water was 9-10 knots. We got even more unsettled when we started noticed huge whirlpools here and there. By now I was hand-steering the boat, trying to avoid anything that looked unfriendly. I definitely wanted to avoid the whirlpools. I estimated the diameter of several of them at 3-4 times the boat length. The center of them might have gone 10-15 feet down. They sure materialized quickly, but they didn’t last long. And yes, one materialized right in front of us.

Going into the whirlpool was uneventful. Just a strong turning sensation. Going out of the whirlpool was not as ordinary. The momentum of the turning boat came to an abrupt halt as we exited the rotating water. This was translated into a huge jolt on the boat which knocked several things on the floor. Things that had stayed in place in rough 15-foot seas. The small boats and jet-skis were still zipping around like mosquitos, darting back and forth and jumping every wave they could find.

A few minutes later we were back to normal water. Soon, our speed over ground was down to 14 knots. And within four hours we had a head current and were traveling along below 8 knots. We made it to False Bay on Lasqueti Island that night.

Monday morning we headed home to the US of  A. Early in the afternoon we arrived at Point Roberts to check in with US Customs and Border Homeland Security Patrol (or whatever their name is this week). They have a special customs dock to tie up to. It was kind of windy, blowing 45 degrees off the dock at 15-20 knots. There were some boats already tied up and in the way. It was Labor Day (or Memorial Day, I get them mixed up) and there were lots of boats going in and out of the bottleneck by the customs dock. I thought to myself, “this is going to take some work to get parked there without some property damage.”

Somehow I got the boat backed in and over to the open spot at the same time a guy was walking by with a sandwich in his hand. He slowed and made eye contact, which meant to me that he was offering to help. So I tossed him the rope from the back of the boat and he responded by wrapping it around the cleat, one-handed. I got the front rope ashore and the boat was somewhat secure. What a relief. Parked within two minutes, and no damage. Until this lady came to the side of the boat and begged “can you move your boat back, my husband needs more room to park there.”

Twenty minutes and lots of rope wrestling later I had the boat tied up a few feet further back. Being a holiday the Customs people were thick. There were several on the dock, with dogs, and more up on shore. They sent Patty and I up to a building to “check in” while they searched our boat with dogs. Thirty minutes later we were untying ropes, headed south again. We cleaned up the dog prints on the kitchen counter later.

We spent our last night at anchor in an inlet on the south end of Lopez Island in the San Juan Islands of Washington.

Tuesday morning we motored in calm waters to Everett, a suburb of Seattle. We parked the Minnow there for awhile.